First of all, I’d like to report a conversation I had, a few weeks ago, with my sister (who doesn’t bird):
Her: There’s an exotic bird place, right near here. You could mark so many birds off your list….
Me: Only, no, because you can only add a bird to your list if you find it yourself, in its natural habitat; it can’t be a captive one. Captives don’t count.
Her: Why? Who says?
Me: I don’t know; the bird people. It’s a rule. It’s like…you have to venture into the wild, hunt that bird down — find it, creep up on it, get a jolly good look — and then, you march back to civilisation, and you tell them “Yep. I birded that bird. I birded the SHIT out of that bird.”
I haven’t ventured into the wild, lately. I’ve hardly ventured beyond the garden (shame, shame!). But I think I can safely say I’ve birded the bejesus out of the local gulls. I mean, I’ve BIRDED those buggers! I’ve watched them eat, fight, play, chase birds of prey, catch their own fish, steal fish from ducks, shriek at the callous kids breaking up their nest, boak, preen, sleep, and, well…shag. Oh, how I’ve watched them shag. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I’m not some creepy birding voyeur, or anything. It’s just that they do it so much, and so loudly, and so close to my window (once, directly outside it — at one point, one of their tails was sticking into my bedroom) — I’d really have to work at it, to avoid catching them in action.
So, early this evening, I was out on my balcony, eating an apple, when who should appear but the birdie exhibitionists, themselves. They flumped down maybe fifteen feet from me, and started in with the face-rubs and head-nips and breast-bumps — what passes for affection among gulls. I bit my apple between my teeth, picked up my camera, and recorded the entire event, from foreplay to finish: this is the final photographic word on gullie love! (My final word, anyway. Tomorrow, I’m finding some other bird to watch!)
Usually, when I take a lot of pictures of the same birds, I only expose my favourites to the Internet. But on this, ahem, special occasion, I’m exposing them all, that the viewer with too much time on his hands might behold the entire event in fascinated horror, much as I did. And here they are:
Aww. Look at them — they’re sweet on each other. See them wipe their beaks all over one another! Hear their soft and tender squawks! Yep. That’s amore.
A little lovebite…. Is this some kind of birdie foreplay, or a considerate helping beak, as her partner finds his balance? I don’t know. It looks silly.
He’s whispering sweet nothings in her ear. Just kidding. In fact, he was wobbling a bit, at that moment; don’t fall off, Casanova!
There you go. Flap those wings! That’s better.
Aaaaand…he flumps down on her back, quite gracelessly. Smooth, dude.
This is what one calls the “cloacal kiss.” Most birds haven’t got penises (there are exceptions, but gulls are not among them), so what they do is, ehh, rub their nethers together, exchange their birdly fluids, and that’s about that. In theory, the whole exchange can be completed in about a second, but no-one seems to have told these gulls that. They usually spend about three minutes.
Does this feel good to them, or are they only doing it because they have to? Don’t ask me. I have no idea.
The male slows down, a bit. Tired already? Worthless bird!
Perhaps his legs are getting tired. It does look a bit awkward, the way he’s crouching.
Time for a break!
That’s right. Mr. Gull has paused, mid-coitus, to serenade his mate. There he is, sitting on her back, singing a little song…
…I’m not sure she appreciates his vocal stylings. That’s one bored-looking bird.
All right — back to business!
Mr. Gull swings his tail from side to side. One presumes he’s making absolutely certain he’s, well, rubbing the right bit in the right place.
Oops! Don’t fall off!
…SCORE! (Invisible high-five is a go!)
All right; that’ll do — Mrs. Gull starts to wander off, carrying Mr. Gull with her.
He flaps and flaps…
…and wriggles about. He’s sexy and he knows it; yep-yep.
She shoogles her wings. “Gerroff!”
Oh, no — he’s still on. Though, he’s pretty much roosting on her back, at this point. I think he used up all his energy in the first minute and a half.
Aaaaaaand…he’s off. Jolly good show, old bean.
Hopefully, these gullie shag displays might soon be replaced by cute, interestingly-patterned minigulls, enjoying their first snacks at my feeder. Less bouncy-bouncy, more sitting on the nest! I know you’ve got eggs, Mrs. Gull. Get on home!