While they come in a variety of species, seagulls generally gravitate toward habitats with certain things in common. These birds are highly adaptable, and while they typically don't mind living in areas heavily populated by humans, they are also cunning, opportunistic and fiercely protective. No matter where they are around the world, though, seagulls are never far from a body of water.
Coast to Coast
Seagulls live near the coast -- any coast. Despite the seemingly ocean-exclusive name, these birds can be found near the sea and lakes alike, and they don't discriminate between saltwater and freshwater bodies. In fact, seagulls can even drink saltwater, as their bodies are adapted to filter out the salt when they drink it. The seagull is actually the state bird of landlocked Utah, because they notably live around the Great Salt Lake.
Living Amongst Humans
Because these birds are so cunning and adaptable, they don't hesitate to live amongst humans, even in heavily populated communities. As opportunistic scavengers and hunters, they do not typically demonstrate fear of humans or other animals, and will take food wherever they find it. Seagulls have even adapted their behavior to benefit from the presence of humans, such as flying around parking lots, highways and bridges to absorb radiant heat.
Despite their willingness to live around humans, seagulls are highly protective of their young and build their nesting sites in more secluded habitats. While this may sometimes include the roofs of buildings, these birds often build nests closer to the water and on the steep inclines of cliff faces. This prevents most predators from accessing their nests, which are built in close proximity to one another for group living. If a would-be predator invades the nesting area, the entire flock will descend upon it to protect the young.
Around the World
Seagulls are found along coastal areas all around the world, including North and South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Australia and even islands around Antarctica -- among others. The hunting behavior of a flock of seagulls is adapted to the prey and opportunities around their natural habitat. For example, gulls that feed largely on mollusks will crack them open on rocks, while those living near efficient hunters such as penguins may swoop in and steal their food en masse.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.