By KEVIN NEVERS
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
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
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.