Forty seagulls from the Bird Hospital in Haarlem were released on the beach near IJmuiden this afternoon. The animals were brought to the shelter as chicks or as traffic victims. Now they have recovered from their injuries and it is time to spread their wings in the wild. “They are doing well with us, but they belong here in the wild,” says manager Wiebe Boomsma.
Several volunteers from the bird hospital and animal ambulance came to the beach to witness the beautiful and, for them, emotional moment. However, when opening the tailgate, the seagulls remain stoically seated. “The strong wind makes it exciting, especially for the youngsters,” says Boomsma.
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For about an hour, the volunteers watch on the beach as ‘their’ birds leave the car one by one. “This is also nice about seagulls, they have a will of their own,” laughs Nancy Slot, volunteer at the Bird Hospital. After the seagulls have all flown out, Boomsma looks with satisfaction at the group that has landed a little further away. “It’s fun to see how they handle the wind and play with shells. It’s like a little kindergarten class that you let loose here.”
Most people have a bad image of seagulls. Slot thinks this is completely unfair. “I think they are beautiful animals with big wings. They are smart and have a will of their own. The fact that they exhibit bad behavior is only due to humans. Today I lifted 25 of them and put them in the car. And I only have one scratch on my hand, in principle they do not harm us people.”
“If you see a tenner on the street, you pick it up too, right?”
She also doesn’t find it a problem that they open trash and grab food on the street. “If you see a tenner on the street, you pick it up, don’t you? In addition, we humans leave the waste lying around, for the seagulls that is food. They are smart enough to know what we put in garbage bags on the street and make therefore open the pockets.”
Boomsma also thinks the bad image is unjustified. “We have ensured that there are no more breeding places for the seagulls in the dunes. They therefore look for another place. This is how they end up on the flat roofs in the cities. They then make noise and people experience this as a nuisance, which I unjustified. The sound is simply part of this environment.”
Hopping on one leg
Among all those seagulls, Boomsma doesn’t have a favorite. “You are not supposed to build a bond with these birds. They need to be returned to nature.” There is, however, a striking appearance. This one only has one leg. “This one will do just fine in the wild,” Boomsma notes. “He can hop well on it and because he has to rely on his wings early on, he is one of the better flyers.”