Noah Perlut, Ph.D., chair and associate professor in the Department of Environmental Studies, has been studying herring gulls nesting on Portland rooftops since 2011.
A writer from Yankee Magazine caught up with Perlut and some of his students last summer on the roof of the Portland Museum of Art for a feature piece in the magazine’s June issue.
“These are animals that are all around us, and sometimes we know it and sometimes we do not,” Perlut told Yankee Magazine. “The gulls in Portland are a great example of that, where they have this secret life that is incredibly complex.”
Gulls are migratory birds and usually nest on islands, but since at least the 1970s some herring gulls have chosen to rear their young on Portland rooftops.
Perlut estimates there are around 300 chicks born on city rooftops every season in Portland, including in nests on houses. He is interested in why they are here and how long they’ll stay.
“Part of this is for the love of understanding the animals that we are so in contact with every day,” he says. “They just have a bag full of mysterious behaviors that we see here on the street, and we think it is that simple, when their lives are in reality much more complicated.”
Both the herring gull and the great black-backed gull have declined in the Gulf of Maine at a rate of roughly 40% over the past decade.
Perlut and his students have banded nearly 150 chicks on 14 commercial rooftops in Portland in an attempt to track them and try to learn more about their behavior.