“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

San Francisco in San Francisco City and County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)

Western Gulls

Nursery on the Parade Ground

Western Gulls: Nursery on the Parade Ground Marker image. Click for full size.
By Joel Seewald, April 3, 2019
1. Western Gulls: Nursery on the Parade Ground Marker
Transformed from an army parade ground to a playground for the children of federal prison guards, the expanse of concrete straight ahead is now a nesting ground for Alcatraz's vast colony of western gulls. Each winter, up to 1,100 pairs of western gulls return to breed and raise their young.

Around February, the territorial, lifelong partners arrive on the island ready to fight, if necessary, for the same nesting spots they've had year after year. Using bits of vegetation and man-made debris, they build circular nests on the concrete. In April and May, for approximately 28 days, they incubate their eggs. In June, 2,000 to 3,000 chicks hatch and raise their voices, creating a screeching racket that will continue over the parade ground through July and August.
Erected by Golden Gate National Recreation Area, National Park Service.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: AnimalsEnvironment.
Location. 37° 49.588′ N, 122° 25.298′ W. Marker is in San Francisco, California
Upper right image image. Click for full size.
2. Upper right image
Western gulls (Larus occidentalis)
Nesting on flat ground is characteristic for western gulls, so Alcatraz's parade ground, constructed in the 1870s to provide the island's army troops a place to drill, is "natural" habitat for these birds.
, in San Francisco City and County. This marker is near the north end of the Alcatraz Island parade ground. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: San Francisco CA 94133, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. The Morgue (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Not Just a Water Tower (about 600 feet away); Officers' Club (about 700 feet away); Quartermaster Warehouse and Power Plant (approx. 0.2 miles away); Scow Schooner Alma (approx. 1.1 miles away); Liberty Ships – Born in World War II (approx. 1.1 miles away); Hicks Engine (approx. 1.1 miles away); The Carpenter Shop... (approx. 1.1 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in San Francisco.
Middle right image image. Click for full size.
3. Middle right image
Western gull (Larus occidentalis)
Western gulls feed on anchovies, herring, mussels, crabs, snails, sea stars, worms, and insects, and scavange for human food.
Lower left images image. Click for full size.
4. Lower left images
During summer, when the parade ground is crowded with western gulls, you won't miss the birds even with your eyes closed. They produce a powerful aroma and a constant racket. In addition to the cries of hungry chicks, western gulls use 12-15 different vocalizations—from high-pitched squeals to low-pitched barks—to defend their territory, signal alarm, identify themselves, and initiate courting.
Lower right image image. Click for full size.
5. Lower right image
Western gull chicks
Full size at six weeks and flying by seven weeks, some young gulls leave home within days of their first flight to travel the coast with other fledglings in search of food. Others stay for months, even until the next breeding season, when their parents evict them to make room for new nests and new chicks.
The Parade Ground image. Click for full size.
By Diane Phillips
6. The Parade Ground
Credits. This page was last revised on August 29, 2020. It was originally submitted on May 13, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan. This page has been viewed 94 times since then and 3 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on May 13, 2019, by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan.   6. submitted on August 28, 2020, by Diane Phillips of Pittsburg, California.
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Feb. 24, 2021