Influx of seagulls brings beach sounds to Terre Haute

By The Associated Press

TERRE HAUTE — Unusually large flocks of seagulls have descended on a western Indiana city, bringing the sounds of the beach to a local reservoir where the birds began gathering in late November.

Residents near Hulman Lake on Terre Haute's east side have seen hundreds of ring-billed seagulls in the skies over the reservoir since the birds began flocking around Thanksgiving.

Peter Scott, a retired Indiana State University ecology professor who directs an annual Christmas Bird Count around Terre Haute, estimated that between 400 and 1,000 of the birds have congregated at the lake.

He said ring-billed gulls aren’t uncommon in Indiana, but they prefer to winter around larger bodies of water like southern Indiana's Lake Monroe. Scott said their appearance in large numbers at Hulman Lake is rare.

“So, there must be an unusual abundance of some favored prey item," he told the Tribune-Star.

Scott said the birds are most likely feeding on small fish in the lake.

Carissa Lovett, the naturalist at nearby Dobbs Park, said the gulls' cries have been enthralling and reminiscent of the sounds of oceanside beaches.

“Just close your eyes and listen, and you’re at the beach,” she said.

The Cornell University Lab of Ornithology describes ring-billed seagulls as sociable creatures that feed together at coastal beaches, but often head inland during winter to forage at golf courses, farm fields and garbage dumps.

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