Why Do Seagulls Scream?

Like songbirds chirp sweetly to converse, seagulls shout violently to communicate.

More precisely, a seagull’s yelling is simply its way to express itself. 

Seagulls screaming may involve anything from food and predators to courtship rituals and parenting baby gulls.

Perhaps, you figured as much.

In that case, you may be more interested in finding out:

Why Are Seagulls Noisy?

Because being cacophonous is how they naturally communicate.

So, stop being so Seagull-ist, it’s a free bird with rights to freedom of expression.

Also, it’s pretty much white, so you have to be extra CAUTIOUS there.

Jokes aside, seagulls are often noisy to

  1. Warn their colony members about some approaching threat, typically eagles.
  2. Express excitement over discovering some food source.
  3. Call their young ones or vice versa.
  4. Encourage parents to feed the babies more through regurgitation.
  5. Attract mates or indicate appropriate materials for nesting.
  6. Suggest an appropriate congregation site for the colony to rest for the night.
  7. Ward off predators and hostile animals from eating their young ones.
  8. Encourage their fledglings to fly out of nests.

Since most of these conversations take place during the breeding season.


The noisy seagulls turn even noisier during the nesting period.

Now, the seagull mating period starts at the end of March, with eggs laying period around May-June and Fledglings leaving their nests around late August to Early September. 

Seagulls are noisy half the year, and the loudest from mid-July to August.

So, if you live near a seagull nesting site, you will constantly hear seagull screams. 

But if you own bird pets, you may not mind bird chirping at all.

However, even as a birder seagull screaming feels quite different.

So, let’s approach it with a rather blunt question:

Why Does a Seagull’s Scream Feel Annoying?

Because it partially overlaps with human biology.

You see, unlike most land birds, seagulls have developed extremely high-pitched sounds.

This ensures that they are heard over long distances with clarity.

Or say, it makes seagulls audible over a roaring sea.

Otherwise, seagull talk would probably go like: “I Can’t Hear You, Bob. SPEAK LOUDER!?”.

Meanwhile, Bob would likely be too dead to respond because the Eagle he was trying to warn about, just ate him. 

Extremely Graphic, nonetheless, True.

So, the shrill seagull sounds are not only an evolutionary advantage but also a necessity.

That said, a human baby also cries with high-pitched sounds.

Since humans have evolved to immediately respond to their offspring, therefore, any high-pitched sound including a seagull’s screaming can trigger a sense of danger.

And so, it’s hardly surprising that many people find seagull sounds extremely annoying.

So, if you are one such person who is tired of listening to seagulls.

Then, it may be helpful to know what they are saying, say:

What Does It Mean When a Seagull Calls?

Though one can never be too sure, certain seagull calls seem to have specific meanings. 

So, these seagull calls can be listed as follows:

Seagull Call Type Typical Interpretation Normally Involved Actions How It Sounds?
Long Calls Territorial Claims that are typically directed at other seagulls. The head moves from back to forward and downwards. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXyotBDIEe8
Short Calls  Warning regarding a certain threat. Upright neck and erect body posture, mouth half-opened. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-79gD1gMco 
Short Calls in Groups Mobbing out a predator typically Eagle Starting with a group of gulls, typically nesting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIoDQJxL0I4 
Meow Normally, Parent seagulls meow to reassure their young ones.  Head moving forward and arched neck, but bill wide open. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cpssZlWXIdA 
Choke Sometimes to maintain dominance. Two birds may choke simultaneously to establish which one is stronger.

It sounds like a Seagull is laughing.

High-pitched rhythmic grunts. Male Mating calls Typically involved tossing the head backward. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ffgZHlnFePA 
Fweet Female Response Calls Typically, involve a female bowing slightly to a potential mate.
Yelp High-pitched and loud bark may be a sign of identity. The Head moves but the body is erect. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DB6eif2rxt8

At 0.08 seconds

Klee-ew Babies encouraging parents for more regurgitation. May touch their beaks with parents. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEhzF0ywA0o 
Squawk Threat or Unknown cause. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQUXAAk2POo 

While this table gives a rough map of interpreting seagull sounds, it does not tell:

Why Do Seagulls Scream Early In The Morning?

Typically, it involves caring for the chicks.

You see, baby seagulls are completely dependent on their parents.

Therefore, with the rise of dawn, they start screaming in their unusually high-pitched cries that demand parents to feed them.

Furthermore, these baby birds feel hungry every other hour. 

Seagull screams may start as early as 3 am in the morning and continue well past noon.

However, morning screams are not limited to baby birds.

Since seagulls mate for life, they have a lot to discuss from choosing a nesting site to deciding on mating periods that ensure breeding success.

So, the seagulls you hear in the morning may as well be an old couple fighting over how to furnish their nest.

Sometimes, the entire seagull community starts screaming simultaneously in the morning.

This usually happens when a Seagull gets snatched by an early hunting eagle.

Regardless, seagulls don’t stop talking until midnight.

Since gulls are diurnal birds that are supposed to be active only during the day.

So, you may be wondering:

Why Do Seagulls Squawk At Night?

Typically, to ward off threats. 

Now, like other birds, seagulls are extremely protective of their young ones.

However, they are inherently cannibalistic creatures that often eat seagull offsprings of their fellow birds. 

In fact, a seagull can gulp down its neighbor’s baby gull in a few seconds.

Still, seagulls stick together in large congregations to deter predators. 

Even with a looming threat of another seagull eating their young ones, Seagulls sleep together in large groups.

Among these group congregations, seagulls on peripheries tend to sleep lightly compared to those in the center that sleep soundly for at least three hours a night.

This makes seagulls secure from outside predators. 

But, to deter cannibalistic seagulls, these birds have developed a mechanism to stay alert throughout the night.

Or say,

Seagulls can sleep with only half their brain resting and one eye open.

This ensures that a seagull wakes up at a moment’s notice.

Therefore, if a seagull sees another bird approaching its nestlings, it starts squawking.

However, a single squawk wakes up the entire seagull congregation that starts screaming to make sure safely.

Consequently, Seagulls often keep squawking even at night.

Finally, you may be interested in knowing:

What Can Be Done To Deter Noisy Seagulls?

Well, if they are already nesting then there is not much that can be done.

You see, seagulls are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Consequently, it is illegal to capture, torture, shoot, or hurt any seagull without a license.

However, if they are not nesting then you can deter them from settling in by

  1. Removing accessible food scraps.
  2. Making potential nesting sites less appealing by adding shiny and odd objects.
  3. Seeking advice from local wildlife authorities.
  4. Getting a pet like a large dog or cat.

That said, a rise in recreational beach activities, as well as over fishing, has made it hard for seagulls to live near the shore.

Furthermore, rooftops of urbanized cities present a safe nesting site along with the availability of easy food access through trash cans.

Consequently, seagulls have been found as far as 40 miles inland from their supposed nesting sites.


Even if you don’t live near the sea, you may experience a seagull screaming all the time.

Since this reliance of seagulls on human food is not a natural activity, it has caused seagull populations to double within a decade.

The overpopulation of seagulls has not only resulted in excessive noise pollution but also unhealthy competition among the coming generations.

And so, if you are feeding seagulls on regular basis, then you may be contributing to the problem.

Wrapping Up 

Since seagulls have naturally high-pitched voices, therefore, they seem to be screaming rather than chirping.

However, seagull calls involve transmitting information regarding their territorial stance, mating, and food preferences as well as parenting and warding off predators. 

While seagulls talk a lot during the breeding season.

But if they scream in the morning it usually involves baby gulls asking for food, and if they squawk at night, it mostly means the presence of a predator.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

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