Why are there seagulls in Kansas?

TOPEKA (KSNT) – Kansas might be a landlocked state far from the ocean, but that fact hasn’t stopped flocks of seagulls from flying over.

Spotting a bird typically associated with sandy beaches and the sea in the Sunflower State can seem more than a little weird. 27 News reached out to the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) and Friends of the Kaw (FOK) to learn why these birds are coming in to land in the middle of the Midwest.

KDWP Migratory Game Bird Specialist Tom Bidrowski says there are more than a dozen gull species that can be found across Kansas. The three most common include the ringed-bill gull, Franklin’s gull and herring gull.

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The herring gull is described by the FOK as “the quintessential sea gull” and can be found along the banks of the Kansas River and other bodies of fresh water around the state. These birds often have different plumages throughout their lives with older adults bearing the light gray/white coloration with black wing tips many beachgoers are familiar with.

The birds are swinging by the Sunflower State mostly due to its location. Migratory routes for gulls make Kansas an ideal spot to stop, especially when considering the abundance of lakes, marshes and the Cheyenne Bottoms wildlife area which attracts thousands of gulls each year.

“Being in the heart of the Central Flyway, Kansas is a key migration route for interior populations of gulls, especially Franklin’s Gulls,” Bidrowski said. “It provides a necessary stopover area to replenish during migration for birds.”

Some new factors at play may be helping more gulls land in Kansas every year. While the birds might be seen as an annoyance to some and compete with native species for food, the gulls do play an important part in the local environment as they help clear carrion left behind by dead animals.

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“Urbanization, agriculture and other landscape changes have allowed gulls to utilize greater portions of Kansas than their historical extent,” Bidrowski said. “Usually, the months of October through April are the peak times to observe gulls in Kansas during migration and winter residency.”

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