It’s hard not to admire the tough Herring Gulls that brave the winter here. Yet, there are those who view these commonest and hungriest of our shore birds as being nuisances and even “winged rats.” Those who view the animal kingdom as a caste system this way apparently have not yet looked at wildlife life close enough. Here we see an adult Herring Gull in its sleek white breeding suit:

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Herring Gulls are useful, good-looking birds. They’re especially wonderful to watch as they race with a high wind at their backs, then swoop up and make wafting landings as softly as snowflakes. Here we see another adult puffed up last week in its speckled winder plumage:

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They often swarm after fishing boats for scraps, which led to a British experiment during World War I: scientists fed Herring Gulls from fake German periscopes, hoping to condition the birds to swarm around the real thing and help detect submarines. It didn’t work; the smart Gulls worked only when they saw food. (Brooklin, Maine)