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Behavior of Sea Gulls During a Hail Storm

Frank E. Blaisdell
Publication Information
4 (July-August)
From Field and Study

Behavior of Sea Gulls During a Hail Storm

I was active in ornithology up to 1900. At that time I moved, took up my residence in San Francisco, and donated my collection and notes to the California Academy of Sciences; these were totally destroyed with the other collections of the Academy during the great fire following the earthquake of 1906. Since that time it has been my pleasure from time to time to study birds in the field and to note their behavior and reactions in the presence of civilization.

The following observation appears to me to be worth reporting. It happened that I had occasion to take a ferry boat to cross the bay from San Francisco on February 23. The weather was stormy, with occasional heavy showers or a steady downfall of rain. As the ferry boat left the pier, I noted an unusually large number of sea gulls along the water front. Each ferry boat had a goodly following and the air was filled with them as they circled about the boat. When about a third of the way across the bay an unusually heavy hail storm came on. I had been watching the graceful flight of the gulls; my attention was distracted by the storm for less than a minute and when I again looked for them, not one was in sight.

I gazed through the falling hail and observed that they were all at rest on the surface of the water and every gull that I could discern had its head under a wing as if in sleep. This reaction was most interesting to me, as it was undoubtedly an instinctive act to protect their heads, especially the eyes, from injury. I had never heard of or seen such a reaction in birds before and I do not know that such an observation has been recorded.

Frank E. Blaisdell

Stanford Medical School, San Francisco, California, March 25, 1930

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