It started out simple enough. I was sitting on a log on Vancouver’s Jericho Beach one day, eating an apple. When I got down to the core, I wondered what I should do with it. I’m not one of those people who eats apple cores (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but I couldn’t see a trash can anywhere within sight. So….
I noticed that my crunching had attracted the attention of a small flock of gulls. With my every bite, they grew increasingly bolder and hopped a few steps closer. By the time I had reached the core, they were arrayed expectantly around me about 10 feet away.
The problem of not having a trash can at hand had miraculously solved itself: I would feed the core to the birds.
But did gulls eat apple cores? I had a bit of nagging doubt, but I figured since gulls are scavengers, they’d eat just about anything. But maybe salmon-fed west coast gulls are different?
While I was pondering the possibility of the gulls rejecting my offering, which would then result in my littering and the potential for a $1,500 fine, I threw caution to the wind and let the core fly and land where it may.
As is the habit of bird flocks, the dominant gull immediately snatched up the apple and hopped a few steps away from the other birds.
Then he took a peck at the core. And another. And another. It looked as if he were testing the offering for quality and texture. I’d actually expected him to swallow it in one gulp, but perhaps he was a more refined version of his east coast cousins. He kept on pecking, with the other gulls looking on expectantly.
For a good 15 minutes that gull pecked at my apple core, and he seemed to be enjoying every bite. I’ve never seen a gull take so much time to eat a simple food item, and a relatively soft one at that. It was as if he were savouring every morsel, just as I had (the apple was a particularly delicious, perfectly ripened Whole Foods organic Fuji from Washington State).
Then trouble came in the form of another dominant gull who clearly wanted a piece of the apple action. He was bigger and, as I soon came to see, meaner. And he came with back-up.
The two gull warring parties quickly assumed their respective offensive and defensive positions. In the meantime, my gull (as I’d come to think of him as) kept on pecking at the core, studiously ignoring his rival. Suddenly, the invading dominant gull took flight and swooped in to steal the prized core, but my gull was having nothing of it. He shrieked and flapped his wings, and the two large birds began violently attacking each other.
As they took to the air, swooping and madly pecking at each other, my gull’s second in command (which could actually have been his mate) snatched what was left of the core and swiftly flew off. Immediately the entire invading flock flew after her, and the last I saw of them, they were buzz-bombing her along the shoreline. I can only hope that she at least got to swallow the last of the apple before perhaps meeting her untimely demise, but I’ll never know for sure.
This is what can happen when you eat an apple sitting on a beach: You can start a war.
Maybe that’s why they tell you not to feed the wildlife.