Gull Attack

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
  • Transcript

NPR's John Nielsen shares some of his most striking tape from 2007. On a reporting trip to California's Farallon Islands, Nielsen was mobbed by legions of Western Gulls that make their homes there.


NPR science correspondent John Nielsen traveled to the barren Farallon Islands off of San Francisco this year in search of the rare Cassin's Auklets. Before he could reach that tiny little bird, he was accosted by massive colonies of Western gulls.

(Soundbite of gulls shrieking)

LYDEN: Now, these (unintelligible) are the very creatures that Alfred Hitchcock used to menace Tippi Hedren in "The Bird." Our final snippet of the best sounds of 2007 is from John's reporting trip to the Farallon.

(Soundbite of gulls shrieking)

JOHN NIELSEN: The Western gull has been described as a bird with much that is good and all that is evil in its heart. I used to think it was joke. But then I met the gulls on the Farallon Islands. They made me feel like I was walking through a town where everybody hated me.

I just got hit by a big pile of guano. When I tried to tip-toe past these nests, the parent birds rose and shrieked and dove into the backend of my hardhat. Aw. I tried to climb the granite cliffs, but they followed me with more shrieking and more poop bombs. I started to lose my grip.

Okay? Shut up. I'm trying to climb. I think - you'd think they didn't want me to make it.

Later that night, I got up and went outside to catch the call of a different bird and what I thought would be peace and quiet. But the gulls were waiting in the dark right outside the field house door.

Okay, thanks very much. A Western gull just snuck up behind me and pecked me in the Achilles tendon and then ran off. I mean, it's 4:30 in the morning, and these things are still after me.

At that moment, I wanted all of these birds dead or at least on a different island. But then I wondered, how would I react if a giant biped started stumping through the neighborhood my children lived in? Would I have the courage it takes to shriek and try to bite its ankle and throw things at it?

I'd like to think so.

(Soundbite of gulls shrieking)

LYDEN: That's NPR's much-pecked John Nielsen.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Related NPR Stories



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.