In a few months, the town of Bath, England, will likely get something it already has in surplus—another seagull.
While visiting the vacation town in early May with his wife, aspiring wildlife filmmaker Matthew Spivack caught two of the town's seagulls mating on top of a train station. Spivack believed he was initially photographing two birds grooming each other until the male jumped onto the back of the female.
As it happens, males will often stand on the backs of females to signal that they are ready to mate. With the exception of a few species, most male birds don't have penises. Instead, they store their sperm in an internal chamber of their cloaca. Male and female birds typically have a cloaca, or vent, which is an opening to their reproductive, digestive, and urinary systems. In females, the cloaca holds an organ housing the ovaries.
When seagulls mate, the male will discharge his sperm in a female's cloaca, where it will eventually fertilize her eggs. The process often requires a balancing act from both partners and the pairs will often mate several times during a season to ensure success.
Seagulls are monogamous animals that often mate for life and frequently return to the same locations to mate.
Whether or not the city of Bath needs another seagull is a point of contention. A report released in April found that the birds carry a number of harmful bacteria. As a result, residents of the town called for the population to be culled in order to "preserve public health."
Research published in June of last year found seagulls in England and China were capable of carrying a superbug resistant to even the strongest antibiotics.
Spivack lamented that the gulls often get a bad rap among the townspeople but conceded that "you have seagulls wherever you can find space" in Bath.