Why do gulls fly over to the Rogue Valley? I can't imagine they find much to eat at this time of year. They seem to hang out at big parking lots. Surely the pickings are as good at the coast.

Why do gulls fly over to the Rogue Valley? I can't imagine they find much to eat at this time of year. They seem to hang out at big parking lots. Surely the pickings are as good at the coast.

— Jim M., Ashland.

Good question, Jim. It's not as if these birds have homes on the coast and take a notion to "fly over" to the Rogue Valley.

Most of the gulls you see hanging out in parking lots year-round are ring-billed gulls. They are found all across the United States and throughout much of Canada, where many head in the summer.

Gulls are opportunists. Ring-billed gulls eat fish, sure, but they also eat bugs, worms, rodents, other birds' eggs and — speaking of hanging out in big parking lots — garbage, especially in winter. Before the transfer station went in out in White City, the old dump near Jacksonville used to sound like Santa Monica with all the gull mewing and squawking.

The other gull you're likely to see here starting this month is the California gull. These are the ones you see at Howard Prairie and Hyatt Lake all summer. In about October they pull up stakes, and many do in fact head to the coast for winter.

The bird-word geeks here at the Since You Asked International Institute of Ornithological Etymology point out there is no such species as a "sea gull" — a term that has spawned confusion. It leads people to think, wrongly, that all gulls must be creatures of the coast, when many are quite happy spending much of their lives inland.

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