The prominence of seagulls worldwide may cause many foodies to ponder, “what do seagulls taste like?” The answer isn’t necessarily great, and this bird is very rarely eaten around the world. However, there were cultures that once ate it as a game bird prominently.
Here’s your guide to what seagull meat and eggs taste like and why many parts of the world outlaw the practice of eating these birds.
What Do Seagulls Taste Like?
Discussions of seagull taste are fairly rare because these birds are not commonly eaten by most cultures. There are a few reasons that they are not eaten, including taste-based concerns and legal issues (more on that later).
For example, seagulls eat just about everything, including meat, meaning that they could have various parasites and other bacteria in their body that could be dangerous to eat.
Generally, people who have tried seagull says that seagull tastes like chicken but with a fishy taste caused by the bird’s proximity to water sources.
Others state that these birds are also a bit rough or even oily in texture, which makes their meat harder to eat.
Even in areas where sea birds are eaten regularly, like Iceland, seagulls are mostly avoided because they typically don’t have a real rich flavor.
Is Seagull Edible?
Yes, seagull is completely edible (notably their eggs) and won’t cause any serious risks to people if prepared properly.
For example, seagulls that typically eat fish without eating regular sources of garbage (a common problem in urban areas) may taste better than seagulls that do eat trash.
However, the bird’s overall meat offering is quite small compared to other birds, often leaving behind a lot of waste.
Typically, seagull meat must also be soaked in saltwater and vinegar for a couple of hours to get rid of bacteria and the nasty taste some people report in urban seagulls.
Doing so may also minimize the oily texture familiar in the bird’s meat. But what about seagull nutrition? Is this bird a healthy option? One cup of seagull meat is good for about 307 calories with 33 grams of protein and minimal cholesterol.
Seagulls are also typically not fat-dense birds, meaning you get minimal fat with this bird’s meat.
However, it is still not eaten all that often and is typically frowned upon or even illegal in many parts of the world. Seagull eggs, though, may be eaten more often because they don’t have the same problems as seagull meat and provide a more palpable dining option.
What Do Seagull Eggs Taste Like?
While seagull meat isn’t exactly known as a delicacy worldwide, seagull eggs have a different reputation. In areas where it is legal to eat them, seagull eggs are often collected and eaten.
For example, in the Vargas Islands in Clayoquot Sounds, residents of the area have collected seagull eggs for years and prepared them in various ways: this practice is practiced primarily in Ahousaht.
Some people gather as many as 200 eggs per trip and try to leave at least one egg behind per nest to avoid devastating the population.
Residents of the area often give them away to friends and family or sell them in farmers’ markets. They are much larger than chicken eggs, with a very rich yolk that produces enough material to nearly create an omelet.
People who have eaten these eggs say they taste very close to chicken eggs but with a saltier overall flavor. In this region, the seagulls mostly have a natural diet meaning that their eggs are less likely to taste poor.
It is essential to harvest seagull eggs before June because they may become incubated and develop an embryo before that time has passed.
Can You Cook Seagulls?
While seagulls are perfectly edible and won’t cause any sickness when properly and safely prepared, they’re generally not eaten very often in modern times.
Even in countries that once ate seagulls, this practice is now rare. An increasing connection with the outside world, including broader meat sources like chicken, beef, and pork, has made seagulls very rare food around the world.
This rarity was not helped by several international laws put into place to protect various birds. These rulings made it illegal to hunt and kill many birds, particularly those that traveled between multiple countries.
One of the first of these laws was the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918, a law that has been signed by several countries and amended over the years.
The Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 was signed between Canada and America in 1916, Mexico in 1936, Japan in 1972, and Russia in 1976.
It is intended to protect migratory bird species that travel between these nations and prevents the killing, capturing, selling, trading, transportation, and eating of any birds on this list without prior authorization by the Department of Interior U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.
Birds are placed on this list if they live in the United States or its territories or are split from a species that was previously on the list; when new evidence exists that it naturally occurs throughout the United States; and if it migrates outside to other regions.
Seagulls and their many cousins and relative birds are present on this list, meaning it is currently illegal to hunt or eat them in countries that signed this treaty.
Exceptions To This Law
It is important to note that recent upgrades to this law have amended what birds it covers. For example, the 2004 updates stated that the law only applied to birds that were native to the United States or its territories and that the bird was present as a result of natural biological or ecological processes. It does not apply to any birds brought into these areas artificially by people.
The law also does not apply to aboriginal nations that exist within these territories. These groups, such as the many Native American tribes across the American continent, often possess legal independence from the surrounding country.
As a result, they may be allowed to hunt seagulls or other similar birds, as long as they do so on their lands and if the birds are vital for their eating patterns.
How to Cook Seagull Meat
If you live in a country that signed the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918, we strongly recommend that you do not attempt to kill or eat a seagull. Instead, explore the other 75+ game birds that do have clear hunting licensing like quail, pigeon, duck or pheasant.
While you may be curious about this culinary concept, you may not only pay thousands of dollars in fines but go to prison for killing and eating a seagull. As a result, it is better just to leave this bird to your imagination to avoid legal complications & processes.
However, if you live in a country where seagull is not illegal to eat or if you belong to an aboriginal tribe outside the jurisdiction of countries that don’t allow seagull meat, it may be worth trying this unique delicacy.
Not many stores worldwide sell this meat because so many follow the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918 or similar agreements, so you may need to be creative.
Finding Seagull Meat
If you live on an aboriginal reservation, you are free to hunt and kill seagulls on your tribe’s territory. This may be the easiest way to get seagull meat because it is otherwise reasonably hard to find.
Seagulls are traditionally near bodies of water but can come inland when food is scarce there. They may also move to inland food sources, like dumps or urban areas with lots of trash to pick.
Note: seagulls that eat trash may have a very unappealing taste. If you can hunt and kill seagulls, try to find them in areas far from urban regions, such as ocean- or lake-side areas.
Doing so can improve your chances of avoiding the nasty taste that may otherwise be in your seagull meat. Just as importantly, you’re more likely to be near an area where hunting seagulls is not illegal.
After you kill a seagull, it is important to clean them as you would any other game bird. Strip their feathers and remove their skin and carefully prepare and preserve the meat before eating.
Interestingly, one older guide to eating seagulls was found in the book “The Curiosities of Food; or, Dainties and Delicacies of Different Nations” by Peter Lund Simmonds. Published in 1853, this book contains a section about seagulls that may help people who want to eat this meat.
In this book, Simmonds discusses how Chinese individuals in San Francisco were shooting and eating seagulls regularly.
In fact, this practice was so common that he notes an enterprising individual was shooting gulls in the area to sell to Chinese people who didn’t want to do the hunting themselves.
In the book, he discusses this cooking and preparation method suggested by his observation of Chinese customs:
- Take a sharp knife and skin the bird from the back part near the neck
- Remove the intestines and other organs and place the birds in salt water for eight hours
- Clean the surface of the seagull and prepare it with your favorite topping
- Cook in an oven for an hour, though the temperature is not given
In the same books, Simmonds suggests hard-boiling seagull eggs and seasoning them with pepper, salt, vinegar, and mustard.
He does note that, even then, seagull meat and eggs have the fishy and oily taste that many people discuss when eating these birds.
It is this oily and fishy nature that has made it easier for scientists to detect seagull meat illegally added to other meat sources.