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How Important Is That Beak?

Have you ever been eating a sandwich in the park and seen a seagull come circling down from the sky? Did it come over near your table with a hungry look in its eyes? The California gull is the state bird of Utah. Here's why:

The seagull helped keep the early pioneer settlers of Utah from starving. Soon after the pioneers arrived in Utah, they planted crops to help them survive. When the first fields of grain began growing, swarms of crickets invaded the fields, eating the crops. The pioneers tried everything to fight the pests, and were about to give up. Flocks of seagulls came out of the skies and ate the crickets. Thankfully, the seagulls helped save the pioneers from starving.

Seagulls are seen near water. They nest near the Great Salt Lake in huge numbers, and fly to the surrounding areas during the day to find food. Seagulls eat fish around lakes, scraps of food by dumpsters, and worms dug up by farmers with their tractors. Some seagulls fly many miles each day to find food, and return to their nest in the evening to feed their young.

During the winter months in Utah, it is difficult to find seagulls because they migrate, or fly to warmer places such as California. Migrate means to move to another region with the change of seasons (seasonally).


  • Determine the kind of beak that works best for picking up food. Spread out some dry elbow macaroni on a table or desk. Try picking it up with a spoon, chopsticks, or a clothes pin. Which worked best? Experiment with other materials.
  • Design your own imaginary bird. Draw a diagram. Tell how each part of the bird helps it adapt to its surroundings.
  • Research information about birds. Use books or the Internet. See if you can find sounds that birds make.
  • Make a bird feeder out of an empty milk jug. Hang it with some yarn in a tree near your window. Fill it with bird seed.
  • Enjoy watching and learning about the birds that come to visit.
  • In the spring, watch for bird nests in trees and patios in your area. If you find a nest, observe it each day for a few weeks. Record in a journal any changes you see.

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Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE 4th grade science core.

Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

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