what does seagull mean

Spirit Animals: SEAGULL

Seagull Spirit Animal

Why do you spot “sea” gulls thousands of miles from the ocean? Do you know if all sea gulls look alike or how many places on earth they can be found? Have you stopped to think where you would find a seagull’s nest or chicks? Have you considered how gulls fish?

These were all questions I didn’t have the answer to before the summer of 1999. Then I was offered the opportunity to work with a PhD student from the University of Washington. She was studying Glaucous-winged x Western Hybrid Gulls on the Washington coast.

Quickly I learned that gulls were the unseen birds in my life. I didn’t even have the basics down. First of all, ornithologists refer to seagulls as just plain “gulls” instead of sea gulls. The distinction is made because not all gulls rely on the ocean for their livelihood. Secondly, there was no one species of bird called a seagull. There are more than four dozen species with various plumages, life histories, and habits. This fact alone opened up an entirely new world to me.

Many people, young or old, who first enter into birding have this original epiphany about the nature of things. What they used to think was a “finch” now could be any number of species of finch from a purple finch to a pine siskin.

What in your life have you been glancing over with the assumption that you know what you’re looking at? Remember that just because a bird or animal or topic or activity is plain doesn’t mean it’s worth dismissing. Stop and take a look. When exploring what does seagull mean as a spirit animal, it might be time to immerse yourself in the ordinary to start to understand how nothing in life is such.

Seagull Bravery

Once I had the amazing opportunity to trap and hold a live gull in my hands I was overtaken with how magnificent he was. His white head and breast, and bright yellow beak marked by a striking blood red dot were extraordinarily clean. I felt as if I’d never seen such pure, true colors in the natural world. To see these true colors amidst the muted sky, gray sea, and beige shore made him that much more blazing. His waterproof coat of feathers was luxurious.

And, that was just his appearance. His spirit was fierce and strong. The gaze from his small but complex eye was what I would have expected to encounter from a hawk or tiger.

seagull power animal

A study conducted in 1976 confirmed that gulls are actually attracted to their predators. A colony’s alarm regarding the predators is strongest when the predators were seen previously with a dead bird [4]. The birds are able to distinguish particularly lethal threats.

I remember the experience of walking uninhabited, sandy islands in the middle of broad harbors with a swarm of gulls overhead calling the alarm. Oftentimes, a bird would fly low and look me straight in the eye. There was nothing gullible or ordinary in that glance. They were acutely aware of what I was up to and on watch for any danger I presented.

What Does Seagull Mean?

Gulls are consummate opportunists, thus the reason why we see them so often associated with human civilization. They can  hunt for their own fish and crabs or steal catches from other seabirds. Gulls will beg for crumbs from tourists and scavenge the shore for crustaceans buried in a pile of kelp. They are also relatively bold, willing to bob around in the fray of a busy feeding frenzy and snatch any opportunity that comes by even if it happens to be hanging out of the mouth of a seal. Western gulls will  steal milk from lactating seals. Glaucous-winged gulls have been seen hunting live, terrestrial prey such as rodents [1][2].

All gulls, like many seabirds, swallow their prey whole. To look at the meaning of seagull we need to understand the important relationship here between the name “gull” and the words “gullet” and “gullible”. It seems that the term gullet developed first in reference to throat with the name gull referring to the bird following a couple hundred years later.

The word gullible followed an earlier use of the general term gull which meant to dupe or sucker in reference to “someone who will swallow anything thrown at him” [3]. We have added the negative connotation to the idea of a person that believes anything he’s fed. However, we see that evolutionarily seagulls have done extremely well with this approach.

Once again, we see the theme of not taking anything for granted and not leaving any opportunity untapped. Are you passing possible opportunities by because of what others may think of you if you don’t appear discerning? Are you picking apart the divine gifts in your life because they aren’t impressive or stunning enough?

Maybe it’s time to drop the judgement for awhile and allow yourself to gulp life in. Sounds scary, I know, but with seagull spirit animal you can test this bold way of being in the world.

Gift of Being Ordinary

There is a theme of conventionality and commonality here. It’s worth challenging the parts of yourself that you consider ordinary. Being ordinary is not a handicap. Even in their abilities, gulls are pretty average. They aren’t the deepest divers, fastest fliers, or most aggressive fishermen, but because they haven’t specialized they have been able to adapt and live all over the world in a vast realm of habitats. You may want to consider stepping out of a specialization for awhile and being more flexible.

This brings me back to why I ended up working on the research project about gulls so many years ago. I had always wanted to study marine mammals, specially dolphins and whales, and despite my best efforts at specialization I wasn’t able to land an internship. So, I stepped back, let go, and decided I was willing to be a bit more ordinary if that’s what it took to be in the larger field of marine biology. Then I was able to find work and have a chance to be in the field working hands-on with wildlife like I’d always dreamed.

Most species of gull have a gray cape of one shade or another speaking to the ability to carry the “gray areas” of life with ease. If you are adept enough to know the species of gull you have sighted and are studying, take particular note of the distinguishing marks. Black caps speak to a mysterious connection to the divine realms and being willing to release your thoughts to the unknown. Black wingtips speak of slicing through the mist of confusion or illusion. A red beak speaks to passionate expression and red legs to grounded passion.

[1] http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Western_Gull/lifehistory
[2] http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Glaucous-winged_Gull/lifehistory
[3] http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=gull
[4] from The Birders Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds by Ehrlich, Dobkin and Wheye

what is my spirit animal?

About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

stacey couch spiritual directorStacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a publicist and journalist for Mother Nature and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the world of shamanism easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.

Stacey Couch

About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

Stacey Couch is a Spiritual Advisor who supports creative seekers learning as they go on the spiritual path. She serves beginner and life-long students of the soul. Her compassionate and collaborative approach honors the humanity and value of each person. Wisdom found in story, mysticism, and nature provide guidance and healing in her work. Through meeting with Stacey, lost souls find refuge. Connection to the Divine is realized. Belonging comes. She is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. Learn More about working with Stacey
22 replies
  1. Jen Haggerty
    Jen Haggerty says:

    Thanks so much for this. I feel honored that you wrote your blog about gulls for me. 🙂

    You always give me so much to think about… The number 3 is special to me in the body-mind-spirit sense and in the holy trinity sense. I thought it significant in this case, like a message from the Divine.

    I have been thinking about new opportunities in my work life. As I read your blog, it came to me that I have an internal fishing game going on, where I throw out some bait by expressing interest in doing something else, either through setting internal intent or through actual conversation with potential. Then when it looks like I might have a ‘bite,’ internally I feel fear take over. I feel my energy change from attraction to guarded, which I know resonates in the opposite manner of my intention.

    Your blog tells me that Gulls wouldn’t pull back. They would dive for that opportunity, then soar to the heavens to express their gratitude.

    Yet another lesson in letting go. I am forever a student! Thank you for your insight.

    • Deirdre
      Deirdre says:

      You are So dense. You missed the entire point and spirit of the sea gull. The sea gull is the one who gulls, cunning and stunning there is NOTHINg ordinary about this bird. You are incorrect in stating there is nothing extraordinary about them. Seagulls are the finest gliders in the brd family. And they are extraordinarily beautiful in their white and dark coloring. I feel bad for you that you posted this. It is an embarrassing display of ignorance in the biology and spirit of the gull. You also have a poor aesthetic. Have you ever watched a seagull glide-it is much more impressive than a hawk in its ability to glide effortlessly on the wind. It is also much more beautiful in its perfect white plumage. You really don’t know enough to be making posts on animals and I think it is selfish that you are narcissistic enough to believe you are educated well enough to write on such a magnificent animal. People who have this power animal are the most extraordinary of humans. Read more on the subject and please delete this post.

      • Stacey Couch
        Stacey Couch says:

        Hello Deirdre, Thank you for reading my article and taking the time to comment. I am always grateful to those who visit my website. I think you may have misunderstood me. It seems we agree more than you realize. I too think gulls are extraordinarily beautiful, graceful, smart, agile, and stunning. I spent many months working extensively in gull colonies braving high seas, driving rain, and strong winds to do the research. I have nothing but a deep, deep appreciation for the strength, stamina, and incredible beauty of these majestic birds. So, we’ll have to agree to agree on how awesome and magnificent gulls are! We will have to disagree however on the level of my education and intelligence. I won’t be deleting this post and I’m not embarrassed about this article that I spent hours writing, that I put years worth of experience and education into, and that I now offer for free. This means that readers too are free to take or leave whatever does or doesn’t fit them. Thank you again for taking the time to read this article and for sharing your thoughts. Many Blessings, Stacey

    • Sara Jane Huggard
      Sara Jane Huggard says:

      A black headed full came into my life last year. I work in horticulture and there are six big greenhouses at work. We often get Pied Wagtails coming into the greenhouses via roof vents. They survive for a while on insects before eventually finding their way out again, though occasionally they die due to the heat. One day I noticed a black headed full in one of the greenhouses. It must have accidentally fallen through a roof vent. There are hundreds of these gulls nearby, attracted by refuse from a local factory. This full spent hours every day marching up and down the rows of plants in the greenhouse. Every day I came in looking for it, hoping it had managed to escape, but no, it was still there. It made me feel very sad. It was trapped, going round and round in circles, seemingly with no way out. I began to believe that the gull was a reflection of myself, trapped in a cycle of grief after the death of my mother, also with no way out. I gave it a name – Jonathan Livingston, after Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I thought it would die if it didn’t get out on the greenhouse, so I began to leave food – tinned sardines, and water for it every day, which it ate. Two or three weeks passed like this, with the gull patrolling the greenhouse every day. It was very determined. Then one day I bumped into my boss and he told me he was in the greenhouse with the nursery owner when the gull appeared. The owner said”what is that thing doing in here? Get it out of here”. My boss opened the greenhouse door and it just walked out. Amazing. I felt so happy and relieved. Now when gulls fly over the nursery, I wonder if one of them is “my” gull, Jonathan Livingston.

  2. Valerie Petenbrink
    Valerie Petenbrink says:

    I am about a year late responding to this article but I have to say I am so intrigued! I consider the seagull to be my “spiritual animal or guide” and this all rings true to my personal life. So many people hide in disgust when they see a gull in real life because they swarm looking for food and occasionally defecate on unsuspecting beachgoers. They are so much more than that!!

    Kudos to your post.

    Thank you for the boost today. Just what I needed for a transition I am going through in my life currently.

  3. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    I’m always looking for more information on plain gulls, as I’m in my “awakening” phase of my life…a gull (that are not known for being in our area) flew above me by only a few feet & I saw aura for second time in my life. I was in amazement…never saw the gull again.

    • Stacey Couch
      Stacey Couch says:

      Thank you for sharing Nicole – It sounds like this gull helped bring an extraordinary experience your way and that you were there to gulp it right up! Lovely work in being open to receive this gift.

  4. sue
    sue says:

    I didn’t even consider a seagull to be a spirit animal until I just opened my eyes from a mediation and there one was in my back garden, literally landing only for about 20 seconds before taking off again. That’s what made me think. I resonate with the fishing comment above about throwing out bait then allowing fear to creep in. Its time for me to be as bold as the seagull, back off for a while and consider the talents in my ordinary ‘ness’ after all, there are many of us that have never specialized in one particular thing but we have many transferable life skills. Communication, sensitivity, empathy, strength, compassion. They go very underestimated as we move through life with expectation that qualifications are the only thing of importance. Life gives us many skills, many experiences and most of all, lots of signs to help us on our journey. As im typing this the gull just flew past my window twice again, the wonders of synchronicity eh.

  5. Elise
    Elise says:

    I am trying to find some insight into the behavior of a young seagull. A pair of seagulls nested in a building above the swimming pool. The adult seagulls would come into the pool while I was swimming. They would keep to one side of the pool and I would keep to the other. Now the young seagull has taken to the pool. Only the young seagull swims right up to me. Even if I back up it swims closer. When I swim away it follows along. It has even flown to me. The other day the mama seagull was at the pool too and she didn’t even pay attention to the young seagull approaching me. Can you tell me what this behavior means?

    • Stacey Couch
      Stacey Couch says:

      Hello Elise, It sounds very much like you’ve made a new friend! The innocence and “gull”ibility of young sea gulls is well known and this young gull could be mirroring back your own newfound curiosity. Oftentimes wild animals are drawn to us because they feel a kinship. They feel like we “get” them energetically and they know intuitively that it is safe to come near. However, the naivety of this young bird is something that will likely pass away with age and experience of humans that are less friendly than you. I’d recommend exploring your own feelings about how your curiosity has served you in your life and how it has gotten you in trouble. How do you determine if a situation is safe for you to open up to or not? Many Blessings, Stacey

  6. Kay
    Kay says:

    In the middle of a deep conversation with a very good friend I noticed out the window something white flipping down I thought was paper or a leaf. When I looked out the window it was a white feather. Pretty sure from a seagull….only white birds around here….we were speaking of ancestors and signs and heavy emotional pain. I went out to keep the feather for us. This is such a great article about gulls. Loved it. ☺

    • Stacey Couch
      Stacey Couch says:

      Hello Kay, I’m so delighted to hear you loved my article. Your conversation with your friend sounds riveting. I’m curious if, after reading my article, you were able to draw any parallels between the meaning of sea gull I cite here and what you were discussing? Given the timing of it all, it somehow all weaves together I’m nearly certain. Many Blessings, Stacey

  7. Jae
    Jae says:

    Hi Stacey,I had a dream I was flying with n flock of seagulls,thnx to your insights I now know a lot more about these birds,we were moving from right to left and I was battleing to keep up.I’m currently contemplating on going into a new direction when it comes to work,by ready ure article I realised,I just have to dive in,and be flexible.
    Thnx so much for taking time to post this,its very much appreciated.

    • Stacey Couch
      Stacey Couch says:

      You are most welcome Jae. I’m glad to hear that you found the insight here to be helpful! Many blessings and best of luck to you as you venture forth on this new path, Stacey

  8. Mæja
    Mæja says:

    I live in Iceland and in the summer time a lot of birds come here as summer guests. But amid all these birds seagulls are somewhat outstanding to me. They are, for example the only birds who are leisurely gliding over the water or open field and seem to be just like “on a fun ride”. None of the other birds I have seen showing this kind of behavior. They are playfully flying by my window very often and I was wondering if they even have spiritual meaning. Thanks to your article I now know they have. Thank you

    • Stacey Couch
      Stacey Couch says:

      Hello Maria, Wonderful description of the seagull’s love of and indulgence in flight! They sure do seem to relish having wings more than most birds do. I’m so glad to hear this article brought some insight for you. You’re most welcome and I look forward to staying in touch! Many Blessings, Stacey

  9. Nancy
    Nancy says:

    Hi Stacey! I love how you look in depth at everything and your seagull symbolism rings very true. I was born right next to the Atlantic Ocean and have moved further inland and to my surprise I see seagulls here too!! I was like , wow seagulls and no ocean here, thats pretty cool of them. I made a picture of panzies = to remember, daisies = gentleness and innocence, lillies = creativity, sensitivity and compassion and seagull feathers = be more flexible, yes I worked with real panzies, daisies, lillies and feathers.

    • Stacey Couch
      Stacey Couch says:

      Hello Nancy, Yes! Seagulls aren’t actually “sea” gulls after all! They are technically called “gulls” because they can live by lakes as easily as by the sea. We have them here in Colorado high up in the Rocky Mountains. That’s fun that you’re working with flower symbolism too! That’s one of my favorite pastimes as well. Many Blessings, Stacey

  10. Darlene
    Darlene says:

    Stacey I truly enjoyed your , I have read a few articles on the seagull just today , this is how I came upon yours , and yes
    most are quite similar so great job . I have just in the last couple days had a different experience with a beautiful seagull , whom latterly approached me at a motel I was staying at In a place I have visit my entire life , I am now 51 ears old and the reason we were there was to tend to our parents gravesites , it was where my fathers family had been vacationing and owned a cottage throughout his life so many of my ancestors are also buried there . So my experience was for the 2 days well my two sisters and my aunt were staying there , a gull had welcomed us , well it hung around and he walked all around never flew to much unless it was to scare another gull from approaching us , well the next day I was out laying and he spent the entire day with me , I wasn’t feeding him or actually eating anything myself , but he stood right around my chair walked around the grounds and was so calm. when they returned he was still with me , I did feed him a few treats and he gradually had no problem coming to me , and he at first would grab food quick and have wings out well he did then after a couple time he walked over and ate and just waited I did take many pics , and ive been going there and seeing the Seagulls for my entire life , but never experienced anything like that , and it just so happen at a time in life where everything seems to be falling apart . so thank u for your words .

  11. Joseph C. Cook
    Joseph C. Cook says:

    Hello Stacey !
    I am writing to you about a very strange experience I had which I believe involved seagulls. On Saturday October 9th, 2004 at 5PM I arrived home from work and decided to relax in a chair on our back deck while my wife Betty and sons Joshua and Jameson were preparing supper. Out of nowhere at least three flocks of gulls spaced apart in tiers began circling above our home. To fill you in, my wife was due for a cardiac catherization at St. Vincent’s Heart Center the following Friday the 15th. The birds kept circling above our home in rural Defiance, Ohio next to a golf course and the Auglaize River below us. The sun shone on the underbodies of these gulls which created a magnificent white glittering reflection. It was a breathtaking and mesmerizing view. I went inside the home and requested my family to join me on the deck and watch this event taking place . The event lasted close to 15 minutes. We were all in amazement of this event in nature occurring right before our eyes ! The birds dispersed just as suddenly as they had appeared. I have never witnessed this kind of event before or afterwards,
    My wife, Betty, had her heart cath done Friday AM of the 15th . Afterwards the physician requested an emergency heart bypass (LAD artery blockage) that afternoon, so I signed the surgical permit. After working Saturday the 16th I went to visit my wife that eve only to find out that she had suffered a massive stroke shortly before I arrived and was comatose. The cardiologist requested the ventilator be stopped Tuesday the 19th, and she passed away very soon afterwards. My question to you Stacey, is do you think the circling flocks of gulls was a premonition from GOD as a warning of a bad event was going to occur one week later? I have kept struggling with this for the past 15 years. Please offer me some insight if you can. By the way, to commemorate I had a view of a Maine lighthouse with flying seagulls engraved on the backside of our tombstone.

    Joseph C. Cook, RPh
    April 2nd, 2020


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