Check out the chick


Herald Writer

EVERETT – The binoculars are out in Snohomish County Council offices. But Big Brother is not watching you – staff members are just keeping an eye on a growing family of gulls living on the roof outside.

Two adult gulls first took up residence on the sixth floor of the County Administration Building in mid-June. The mother soon laid two eggs in a shady corner. In between council briefings and citizen questions, staff members would stop in the lobby to check on the expectant parents.

One Monday, they came back from the weekend and found baby No. 1, council receptionist Betty Hymas said.

A week later, egg No. 2 is still keeping them waiting. County communications coordinator Fred Bird thought he saw two beaks under momma one afternoon and rang a little-used bell outside council chambers. It was a false alarm.

Bird, appropriately enough, is the true birder on staff. He explained that the gray-and-white "seagull" is actually a glaucous-winged gull. When staff members were concerned that their adopted baby gull might meet the fate of lunch for a hawk or crow, Bird built a box to shelter the toddler.

"They instinctively know to hide," he said of the chicks. "Life is dangerous."

Bird, founding president of the Washington Ornithological Society, has warned his doting co-workers that young gulls in the wild have a 90 percent mortality rate.

Luckily, the county doesn’t have all its eggs in one basket. There’s a second nest on the west side of the roof. The Mission Building, which serves as the county courthouse, has three nests in the belltower and a half-dozen others around the roof. Bird counted at least eight chicks there last week.

The burgeoning downtown nesting colony may be the result of overcrowding and disturbance at the main glaucous gull colony on Jetty Island, Bird theorized. The gravel roofs are sort of like the beach, he said.

Bird expects baby No. 1 will spend another month or so literally on top of the county’s business before he starts testing his wings.

"He’ll fly on the roof and then off the roof," Bird said.

If they have their way, an office full of the county’s top elected officials and staff members will be watching – and waving good-bye.

You can call Herald Writer Kristin Kinnamon at 425-339-3429or send e-mail to

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