Wes Craven's The Birds: Part 3

Ahh, those summer gull friends.

Seagulls are everywhere on Martha’s Vineyard. Not only on our shores, or following the fishing fleet, but in supermarket parking lots, garbage dumps, and even, on foggy or windy days, farm fields. Then they ground themselves just like any sensible pilot, and like any pilot, if they’re not flying, they like to chew the fat.

With that in mind, I decided to interview a few who had put down in a newly mowed field up in Chilmark.

“Hi,” I said to one poking around in the grass like a giant robin. “Do you mind telling me what you’re doing?” The gull looked up with something red and droopy in its beak. Half a mouse, I could tell by the tail. She gulped it down and burped. “I loooove new-mown fields,” she croaked. “Nobody escapes the thresher.” She pounced on a mangled cricket.

I turned to another less occupied bird. A big herring gull. “How come you’re not looking for food?”

“How come you’re not, knucklehead?” was the reply. I blinked, a bit taken back. “I’ve already eaten,” I said. “So have I,” said the herring gull. “You have any idea how much food restaurants throw away? One dumpster keeps me full for a day.”

Other gulls began wandering over. “Not that many fish out there anyway,” a ring-billed gull said. “A bird has to adapt. Me, I work the tourists down at the ferry. I can catch a piece of bread no matter how badly it’s thrown. But first I have to pose.”

“You pose?” I asked.

“Of course. They gotta get their pictures. You just land on top of a piling for a second or two and it’s raining pumpernickle.” He demonstrated. I wished I had a camera.

“Pet food is pretty good too,” a laughing gull said, preening primaries. “Do you break into peoples’ houses?” I smiled. He laughed rather rudely. “On back porches, you lamebrain. Or where little old ladies feed feral cats, may they burn in hell.”

The interview wasn’t going in the direction I had anticipated. Then somebody flew up and crapped on my head. “Oops, sorry!” she said, and flew off into the mists. I mopped my hair. “What do you expect from a tern?” the first gull said, tossing down the other half of the mouse.

“You don’t like terns?”

“They’re pretentious. God’s gift to the ocean, they think.”

“I had no idea gulls didn’t like terns,” I said. “I’ve never seen you chase any of them.”

“They’re too fast,” he grumbled. “But I’ve eaten plenty of their eggs, that’s for sure.”

“And their chicks, too, at the right time of year,” squawked the herring gull, and it flapped up into the air. The sun was climbing higher and the fog was lifting.

 “I had no idea you gulls had such strong opinions. Are there any sea birds besides gulls that you like?”

 “None,” shouted a great black-backed gull. “Gulls rule!” He flapped his wings in an almost threatening manner, and all the other gulls began to do the same thing.

“How about ospreys?” I asked out of desperation, thinking surely they’d have to admire an osprey.

“We hate those guys,” someone way in the back screamed, and everyone shrieked in agreement. “Look at me, I have a big fish in my claws – aren’t I clever!” someone else cried. “Flap, flap – look – I can even fly with it! What a bunch of show-offs!” He jumped up and flapped into the air, circling with the herring gull up there. Soon they were all airborne, their cries shrill and derisive. They spun in a huge white vortex above my head for a moment, then veered off into clear skies.

I had to admit, they were beautiful when they flew.

I turned back to the field, and found to my surprise that the first gull I spoke to was still there. Looking at me.

 “They’re just messing with you,” she said.


“Gulls have a sense of humor. We have to. We’re survivors and utterly shameless, so we have to act like people think we act once in a while. We…”

She paused as a huge white whoosh arced over us – the gulls were back for one last pass. I covered my head, fearing the worst. But not a single gull let loose on me. As one, like a long white wing, they lifted higher and disappeared.

I turned back to the gull at my feet. She was poking in the long cut grass. I expected she was looking for more rodent halves, but she came up with a single yellow flower – one of those little things that grow in meadows whose name I don’t even know. She hopped up on my shoulder and extended her beak to me.

I took the flower. And then she was gone.


This article is part of an eight-part series Wes Craven produced for Martha's Vineyard Magazine. Click here to read the entire saga of the filmmaker’s adventures with his avian neighbors.