The Crying Seagull
The crying seagull, Larus fleo, has been considered an incarnation of the gods by the people of the Kalahari desert since ancient times. With a wingspan of up to one meter (~3.28 feet), the crying seagull is one of the larger members of the Laridae family, and flocks of the pure white birds are an impressive sight to behold. The birds always preceded the rare rainfalls in the Kalahari, which is why the natives gave them their name.
The exact reason why the birds would precede the rain, and not follow it, has so far eluded scientists. This peculiar behavior means that the crying seagulls arrive in the Kalahari when it is at its driest, and food and water are scarce. Early hypotheses about the behavior thought the gulls might feed on the animals that had succumbed to the harsh conditions, but observations on the field have yet to record a single instance of this behavior.
John de Galle, of the Paris Institute for the Study of Creatures With Feathers (PISCWF), who has recently been nominated for the French Award for Having Studied Stuff (FAHSS) for his paper on the behavioral patterns of the Paris fashion week, has stipulated that the birds use the strong winds that precede the clouds to migrate over the African continent, a journey which, according to Dr. de Galle, they could not undertake under normal conditions.
Recent observations of the climatic changes that are starting to affect the Kalahari desert have shown that the population of crying seagulls is directly dependent on the amount of rainfall in the desert. The fluctuations of both the gull population and annual rainfall are in perfect harmony. Although most scientists agree that it is the fluctuating climate that influences the birds' population, some have another explanation.
“Normally, when a population declines in reaction to a change in the environment, there is a lag period between the environmental change and the population change. This is not the case here, since the rise and fall happen at exactly the same time. The only explanation is that the two changes share the same cause”, said Thomas Fifi, of the African Institute for the Study of Dry Places (AISDP).