A rare Heermann’s gull had to be euthanized after it was allegedly beaten by a man who claimed the bird had attacked him and his wife near the playground at Main Beach on New Year’s Eve, Laguna Beach Police Sgt. Jason Kravetz said.
Heermann’s gulls — an unusually aggressive species of Pacific Coast gull — are on the Audubon Society’s watch list for endangered or threatened birds, according to the society’s website.
The suspected attacker, Dragan Djuric, 50, of Wichita, Kan., was cited for misdemeanor cruelty to animals in the incident at 2:53 p.m. Dec. 31, according to police records. The citation carries a $500 fine.
Kravetz said Djuric told officers that the birds attacked him and his wife at Main Beach by flying into them and trying to eat their ice cream cones, Kravetz said. He became angry after the attack — and when he was defecated on — and started waving a stick at two of the birds.
Witnesses told police that one of the couple dropped an ice cream cone on the boardwalk, and the birds started to eat the droppings. They said the man approached and started striking the birds with a stick.
Officers located one bird and noticed it had sustained serious injuries to its wing. The bird, a Heermann’s gull, was taken to the Wetlands and Wildlife Station in Huntington Beach, where it was euthanized. The second bird believed to be attacked by Djuric made its way back to the ocean.
The Audubon Society states: “Heermann’s gull is a unique bird of the Pacific Coast. Almost the entire global population of this species breeds on one island group off the coast of western Mexico; following breeding season, these gulls disperse northward along the coast as far as southern British Columbia.
“Surprisingly aggressive for birds their size, Heermann’s gulls steal fish from the pouches of brown pelicans and actively chase other birds to dislodge prey items.”
The birds have light gray under parts, dark gray upper parts, a white head and a bright red bill with a black tip.
For more information, visit www.audubon2.org/watchlist.