Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 63: "Cruel of Beak and bottomless of maw"

I found this at the back of the house this morning. The gull didn't even notice me open the door to take this picture because the wing of its victim is blocking its eye. As you can see, it's grisly on the island right now. Lots of death by gull, even more than usual.  The naturalist William Leon Dawson described the Western gull, and the destruction they wreak, much better than I can: 

"Much that is good and all that is evil has gathered itself up into the Western Gull. He is rather the handsomest of the blue-mantled Laridae, for the depth of color in the mantle, in sharp contrast with the snowy plumage of back and breast, gives him an appearance of sturdiness and quality which is not easily dispelled by subsequent knowledge of the black heart within. As a scavanger, the Western Gull is impeccable. Wielding the besom of hunger, he and his kind sweep the beaches clean and purge the water-front of all pollution. But a scavanger is not necessarily a good citizen. Call him a ghoul, rather, for the Western Gull is cruel of beak and bottomless of maw. Pity, with him, is a thing unknown; and when one of their own comrades dies, these feathered jackals fall upon him without compunction, a veritable Leichnamveranderungsgebrauchsgesellschaft. If he thus mistreats his own kind, be assured that this gull asks only two questions of any other living thing: First, 'Am I hungry?' (Ans., 'Yes,') Second, 'Can I get away with it?' (Ans., 'I'll try.')"
  • William Leon Dawson, Birds of California, 1923
P.S. Bonus points if you can identify the bird going down the gullet