Chesterton Tribune

Mystery solved: 'Bluebellied' gulls were painted by researchers

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The blue-bellied Ring-billed Gulls observed over the last week or so in Northwest Indiana haven’t been paint-balled. They haven’t fallen afoul (afowl?) of any toxic waste. They haven’t been abused in any way, as the Post-Tribune speculated in a story published in this morning’s edition and headlined “Blue tint baffles experts.”

Instead, the gulls have been dyed as part of a long-term management program implemented by the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services.

According to a statement released on May 8 by Chicago and the Park District, Ring-billed Gulls in two colonies—in Chicago and East Chicago—are being marked with various shades of non-toxic dye in an effort to determine their origin and “to aid in the development of long-term management strategies.”

The regional population of Ring-billed Gulls has “increased dramatically in recent decades,” the statement noted. “The high number of gulls in public areas leads to problems ranging from nuisance to property damage and economic losses.”

More: studies by the U.S. Geological Survey have suggested a link between gulls’ fecal droppings and E. coli in swimming waters.

Among other things, the Park District is trying to reduce food sources by placing covered trash and recycling containers, installing signs urging the public not to feed gulls, utilizing border collies as a Ring-billed Gull harassment technique, and daily beach grooming practices.

Wildlife Services, meanwhile, for the second consecutive year, is reducing the population of Ring-billed Gulls by coating their eggs with biodegradable corn oil, which prevents hatching.

As for the dyed gulls, the region’s birding community has been asked to report sightings of color-marked birds to track their movements and migratory patterns.

The Chesterton Tribune has received reports of blue-dyed gulls in Prairie Meadow Park in Westville, at the INDOT drainage basin at the intersection of U.S. Highway 6 and McCool Road in Portage, and at Miller Beach in Gary.


Posted 5/20/2008