Goals and Gulls

28 November 2017 | Posted in Birds
Goals and Gulls
gulls © Sam Roberts

By Sam Roberts

Communications Officer

Tonight’s big game, Crystal Palace vs Brighton & Hove Albion - huge crowds will gather in the AMEX terraces, joining in with the infamous chant “SEAGULLS, SEAGULLS, SEAGULLS”. But what are they actually chanting about? Our own Dr. Barry Yates of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve physically winces when the word is uttered - not because he’s an Eagles fan (he’s not), but because there is no such bird.

‘Seagull’ is a term often used to describe the grey and white birds we see harassing unsuspecting tourists for chips, waking us up before dawn with their raucous cries, or ripping our bin bags to shreds - before we stumble out of bed to clean up the debris strung half a mile down our street. In fact, what we see along our coastline are a number of different seabirds that all come under the simple term ‘gull’.

There are 18 species of gull listed in The Birds of Sussex, of which 7 nest in the county, so to avoid future confusion we’ve put together a quick guide to a few you’re likely to encounter:

Herring Gull

Probably the gull most term ‘seagull’ - it has pink legs, a yellow beak with red spot, black and white wing tips and grey back. These gulls are often found anywhere there’s food to scavenge - including rubbish dumps and fields. Their young are mottled brown, and despite what may seem like healthy numbers, they’ve suffered a decline in the last quarter century, with many of their breeding sites being lost.


Found breeding on the Brighton to Newhaven cliffs in Spring, before heading out over the Atlantic to the caribbean, these medium-sized gulls have short black legs, completely black wing tips, a grey back, dark eye and small yellow beak.

Black-headed Gull

Despite the name, most of the year they have a white-head with a few blotches, only turning dark brown (yes another mistake in the name) when in their summer breeding plumage. They’re usually found in noisy flocks where there’s plenty of food, inland or by the sea.

Great Black-backed Gull

One of the largest gulls, this very heavy-set looking bird often chases other gulls for food. As it’s name suggests, it has a very dark back, large powerful bill, and pink legs.

So there you have it, next time you’re in the coach on route to the away game, and the chant starts up, don’t be so quick to join in - yes you may get a few odd looks and snubs, you may even lose a few friends and respect, but we think it’s worth it - as there really is no such thing as a seagull.


  • Phil Belden:

    28 Nov 2017 13:37:24

    Got one more for you – the gull-lookalike Fulmar, also along our sea-cliffs in summer, it’s an albatross; confusing, these “seagulls”!
    Next time the Seagulls play Liverpool, what bird species is a liver bird; and now I’m off on one, how about the stylish logo of Swansea City (not sure the fans would appreciate it being a Mute Swan, maybe a Whooper?) and their Welsh neighbours, the Bluebirds of Cardiff City? Two I do know: West Bromwich Albion’s badge is a Song Thrush and the Spurs cockerel, not a bird derivation at all, Tottenham Hotspur being named after one Harry Hotspur (for those literary minds, see Shakespeare’s Henry IV).
    Gives a whole new slant on bird-watching & ID-ing.

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