At least, that’s what I think this bird is after looking through the Waterbirds of Ohio guidebook from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website. It’s one of many bird species we saw this year on our visit to Old Hen Island in Lake Erie.
This bird is huge — not quite as big as a chicken, but much, much larger than the robins, cardinals and blue jays we see here in central Ohio. It must weigh several pounds, and it’s not particularly intimidated by an approaching human. Its oily feathers allow it to float comfortably on the water. It bobs up and down on the swells of Lake Erie and then takes off and wheels around the island, high in the air. It’s also perfectly comfortable waddling around the patch of grass in the middle of the island, looking suspiciously at whoever might come near.
These gulls also are loud. In the morning, their startling cries that greet the sunrise could wake the dead — or even the snoring cribbage player who might have had a few Labatt’s too many the night before. And, of course, the gulls are happy to leave their markers. The rocky shores of the island are coated with chalky droppings that look like multiple coats of bright white paint.