By Marjorie Nesin
---- — A seagull chick, still sporting fuzzy feathers on his belly and a browned grey coat on his back, screamed and poked his beak at a red solo cup in the St. Ann’s courtyard Thursday.
Finding no water in the cup, the seagull, one of two who survived a fall from the church’s peaked roof, waddled through a flower bed and settled in a shaded spot beneath a ramp for the disabled.
Each year, St. Ann’s employees bury at least a few baby birds that fall, but this year, the staff has kept busy nurturing and watching as these two survivors grow and hope they will soon learn to take flight.
“These guys somehow made it down,” said Office Manager Linda Rogers.
A custodian at the church frequently fills the red cups with water for the little gulls, while church rectory cook Mary Ann Fittro watches them wander and flap their feathers whenever she snags a break, and the mother and father gulls swoop down to flap a protective wing and snap their beaks at anyone who gets too close.
“They pretty much rule the parking lot right now. They’re pretty entertaining,” Rogers said.
Fittro fed the chicks some leftover fishcake Wednesday afternoon. Maybe the handout sparked one of the chick’s attempted flights into the screen door. She stood back, outside, as the chick wandered on the stoop, fearing the mother gull might come squawking down at her if she edged too close.
“I didn’t think I was going to get into the kitchen,” Fittro said. “I walked pretty fast!”
Since the birds survived the fall from St. Ann’s rooftops, they will likely live on to become adults and eventually fly away from St. Ann’s, according to wildlife rescuer Jodi Swenson, who rehabilitates birds out of her Gloucester home.
“If they are in a relatively safe spot, away from the road, the parents still take care of them and they should just be left alone as long as they’re in a relatively safe place,” Swenson said.
Seagull chick eggs hatch in the summer, and hot weather can draw them to desperation as they search for shade. While some of the chicks — who take about a month or six weeks to learn the skills of flight — will seek shade next to chimneys or beneath ledges, others will wander a little too far in their search and tumble to the ground.
Swenson said most birds that fall actually land without injury and continue their development into adult birds, finally reaching the point of flight.
“They’ll be the same size as an adult, and their tail feathers will be nice and long,” Swenson said. “They can really fly before they know they can fly.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.