Robert Kirby: Utah’s state bird? Please, let’s stop being so gull-ible.

Robert Kirby

For Father’s Day, my family went boating at Willard Bay. Perfect weather, great water, and a loose gathering of blood relations that can still mostly tolerate one another. It didn’t go off without problems, though.

It was supremely relaxing. Designated as the camp monitor, I spent my day watching a collection of empty chairs and a weathered picnic table loaded with food and wet towels.

While the rest of the family went out on the boat, I read, dozed and threw rocks at some of the most vile criminals ever created — sea gulls.

The California gull, or Larus californicus, is Utah’s state bird. How this malignant creature became the state bird in 1955 defies logic. Maybe we just didn’t know better back then.

My early Mormon ancestors venerated them because they supposedly ate all the crickets and saved everyone from starvation, but that was then. We are a much more enlightened society today.

In October 1913, the Seagull Monument was unveiled on Temple Square and rhapsodized in over-the-top prose.

“O bird of snow-white plume and graceful poise, thou are immortalized in gilded everlasting bronze! Thou camest a seeming messenger of God…”

Really. Filthy scavengers that sound like a choir of crack addicts being driven from a public park are what passed as messengers from God back then?

Not everyone thought so. Five months before the monument’s unveiling, a person was fined $100 in Salt Lake City for shooting a sea gull. (That would be about $2,500 in today’s dollars.)

Amid all the statues and memorials now being pulled down, maybe it’s time to stop honoring sky carp for some dubious contribution in the past and instead hold the birds accountable for decades of defiling freshly washed cars, soiling laundry, and stealing food from campers.

The California gull subsists on a diet of insects, invertebrates, worms, mice and garbage. Since those things were not on our picnic table, I was annoyed to wake from a nap and find a landfill-us californicus with its head stuffed in a bag of our Cheetos.

I threw a rock. It struck an ice chest and bounced away harmlessly. The gull skimmed off a dozen yards to lurk with several of its loathsome kin awaiting for another opportunity.

Mindful not to hit other picnickers, I pegged rocks toward the gulls. I also kept an eye out for park rangers, who are obligated by law (regardless of their own feelings on the matter) to protect these feathered vermin.

Eventually, a woman from another group came over and asked me to stop. Throwing rocks to shoo away the “beautiful state bird” was hurting her young daughter’s feelings.

“We moved here a couple of years ago, so I know who you are. Please don’t write about us in the newspaper.”

It was a fair request. She didn’t march over and hit me with a club, have a meltdown, or even call the rangers. She was nice. So I decided to be nice and help acclimate her to Zion.

I gave her daughter the rest of the bag of Cheetos. Twenty minutes later, I heard the woman’s husband — apparently fed up with the birds as well — yelling about going home and getting a shotgun.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.

Return to Story