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What You're Doing Wrong with Birds on the Oregon Coast

Published 05/07/2020 at 5:54 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

What You're Doing Wrong with Birds on the Oregon Coast

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(Oregon Coast) – Stop feeding the freakin’ birds.

Didn’t you learn anything from Hitchcock? Feeding the birds along the Oregon coast is seriously bad and even the so-called “animal activists” make this clueless mistake. (Above: Yachats. Anywhere gulls go is the "poop" deck).

What on Earth do you think birds really eat? You think that your personal fast food problem of French fries and crusty carbs are what’s been sustaining the descendants of dinosaurs for millions of years?

Let’s look at the science of not feeding the birds. Gulls and other feathered beach beauties eat fish. Yes, they’re dumb as rocks so they’ll eat what we throw at them, but that doesn’t make it right nor thoughtful. These fatty foods can actually harm their digestive system and it’s almost as bad as when they gobble up our plastic bits (thanks again, inconsiderate-types). It can clog them up and they may actually starve to death.

Don’t believe us? Oregon Coast Beach Connection talked to the Wildlife Center of the North Coast in Astoria years ago about this. Back then, it was Sharnelle Fee who was running the place (she passed away a few years later). She had done necropsies on dead birds that looked to be starving – yet their little bellies were crammed full of human grub.

“It was weird,” Fee said back in 2011. “I’ve found hot dogs, chicken bones, etc.”

Not to dump all over your fave childhood memories of feeding birds on the beach, but you probably helped kill a few. Maybe teach your own kids not to do that.

If you’re going to feed them anything, give them what they usually eat: fish. But you’re not going to waste your catch-of-the-day on some little feathery dude, are you? So don’t throw anything at them.

Here’s another problem with this: ever notice how they like to flock around people who are eating on the beach? How they sometimes dive bomb you if you’re munching on pizza out there? That’s your fault. Well, you and millions of other tourists (and hey, locals too) who trained them to think bipeds like us are vending machines.

They now know by repetition that when those tall creatures nearby start stuffing stuff into those holes in their faces the gulls think that they could get in on the hustle. In one beach town in England – Brighton – it’s become such a problem gulls will actually peck at people until they drop their morsels.

Another thing the wildlife center warns us about is what this does in parking lots in some areas of the Oregon coast. Yachats’ main access downtown can be pretty slammed with the gray ones, and there has historically been big problem in Seaside on the other side of Highway 101 (that may have declined, thankfully).

“All it takes is one French fry and you’ve got 50 birds,” Fee said.

Worse yet they start to think of cars as seagull food carts, so they’re not afraid of them anymore. Then they get hit by cars and someone has to put the thing out of its misery or clean up the corpse. Yummy.

Then there’s the poop problem. Cannon Beach has tried to clamp down on feeding gulls a little more aggressively, as all that flocking and dive-bombing around creek outfalls on the beaches causes more of their droppings to go sailing into the ocean. State health authorities acknowledge that when they find higher-than-normal fecal matter in oceans that it’s quite possibly from birds. Then someone has to close that one beach and tourists flip out and somehow think the entire Oregon coast is contaminated.

Most hotels on the Oregon coast have signs on the balconies saying “don’t feed the birds.” A lot of that has to do with droppings all over your balcony. So if you don’t want that in your personal space while in your room, then you should also think about that the next time you think it’s cute when a gull picks up food you’d usually leave for garbage.

That’s one thing you and the gulls have in common: that grub is garbage for both of you.

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