Q There are no seas in Minnesota, so why do we have seagulls? Do they live here or head south for the winter? And why do seagulls hang out in parking lots?

A Various gull species are frequently called seagulls, but there really is no such thing as a seagull.

There are three gull species that regularly breed in Minnesota: the herring gull, the ring-billed gull and the Franklin's gull. Other gulls also wander into the state during migration.

Herring and ring-billed gulls stay in Minnesota as long as they can find open water, where they can roost for the night. When ice forces them to move, they go as far south as the next body of open water.

Franklin's gulls, which breed in western Minnesota, are migratory. They winter from the Caribbean to as far south as Peru, Chile and Argentina. If you ever see large spiraling flocks of smallish gulls heading south like a slow-moving twister, these are probably Franklin's gulls.

Gulls are carnivorous and scavengers. When they're in or near cities, they find good feeding in parking lots close to restaurants, grocery stores, parks and other places where people leave food scraps and litter.

In warmer weather, thousands of gulls can be found at city dumps, where they scavenge and fight for food. At dusk, these large flocks typically move to a lake to roost.


Preventing bird strikes

Q Birds leaving the feeders in front of my windows strike the glass almost daily. What can I do?

A Move the feeders away from the windows. You also could try applying silhouettes of falcons to the windows or leaving the screens in place all winter to break up the illusion windows give of open space.


One-way birds

Q Why do birds seem to face the same direction when sitting on power lines?

A Wow. That's an interesting question. We can't answer definitively, but we have a couple of possibilities:

• When birds flock, they generally fly in the same direction. When they select a structure to land on, it would make sense that they would all face the same way, especially if they alighted on the first approach.

• Birds that perch conspicuously in the open have to be wary of predators approaching. It's believed that these birds travel in dense flocks to protect individual birds from predators. While most of the birds in a flock are facing one way, there may be a few birds that serve as sentries and face different directions.

• Birds are aerodynamically shaped to face into the wind. In high winds, they may face one way so they are not as prone to the force of the gales.

This column is prepared by Minnesota Ornithologists' Union (MOU) members Mark Alt and Anthony Hertzel. To ask questions about birding, call 612-673-4363 or send questions to birds@stribmail.com. Questions will be answered in the newspaper only.