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Seagulls have a Secret Skill

Recently I went to the beach for the day and observed a surprising event. There was a large patch of nice, yellow/white sand and to one side of the sand was an even larger area of volcanic rock pools. There were a few people, mostly on the sandy area allowing their dogs and children to run free. Over on the rock pools I spied a mob of about fifteen to twenty seagulls, all congregated around one pool in particular and what they were doing was particularly surprising. They were drinking salt water.

Like most birds do when they drink, these large healthy looking seagulls were standing around, scooping up water in their beaks, tipping their heads back and swallowing but I couldn’t get over the fact that the rock pool was full of salt water. I knew this because I had witnessed the tide go out leaving the water trapped there.

So I did a little research and discovered that seagulls are walking/flying desalination plants. They have a pair of salt glands above their eyes which are housed in grooves which in turn extend down the bill of the birds. When the animal drinks salt water it travels through the blood stream and the separated salt is deposited in the glands as a heavy saline solution, this runs down the bill, the bird shakes it’s head and the salt is returned to whence it came or anywhere it happens to be.

Apparently seagulls do like fresh water, but mostly for bathing in, salt water is their preferred source for drinking fluid.

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