Why do seagulls so often congregate in the parking lots of shopping centers like they were floating on water? The lots can be perfectly dry and without any food to be seen.
Blake knows it all, even about New Orleans seagulls. However, seagulls all over the country exhibit this seemingly bizarre behavior.
The fact is, it's not unusual for gulls to congregate where they can find a food source. Even though a tidbit is not visible to the human eye, gulls are excellent at locating tiny bits of food in a parking lot. The birds are voracious and opportunistic, and will eat just about anything, hot or cold. Sometimes they eat items we wouldn't even consider food, such as pebbles and stones. The birds have a "crop" — part of their digestive system that helps them grind up food — so small, hard tidbits found in parking lots are quite desirable.
Most of the gulls we get here are Ring-billed, Laughing or Herring gulls. They often are called "Walmart" birds because of their habit of settling in large parking lots. Besides opportunities for food, they drop down in these wide cement areas for warmth. Plus, large open spaces make it easy to spot danger.
But New Orleans gulls are also "railbirds." If you go to the Fair Grounds Race Course, you will see many gulls hanging around the track itself. After the post parade, the gulls will settle on the ground and peck around looking for anything interesting the horses have stirred up or left behind.
In 1970, Richard Bach, in his novel Jonathan Livingston Seagull, captured the nature of these birds when he wrote, "For most gulls, it's not flying that matters, but eating."
Off Carrollton Avenue near Xavier University there is Drexel Street. For whom or what is the street named?
The street is named for St. Katharine Drexel, who was born to a prominent family in Philadelphia in 1858 and later became interested in the well-being of African Americans and Native Americans.
She donated money to help the two groups, but soon realized more than just money was needed. At age 33, she took her first vows as a nun and founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People, dedicating her life and fortune — $20 million — to this work.
Schools were a top priority, and in 1894 Drexel helped open the first mission school for Native Americans in Santa Fe, N.M. After that, many other schools opened for Native Americans west of the Mississippi River as well as schools for African Americans in the South.
In 1915, she founded a school in New Orleans. Originally a coeducational secondary school, Xavier evolved into a teacher's college. By 1925 it had become Xavier University. The renowned College of Pharmacy was added two years later. One of only two in Louisiana, Xavier's College of Pharmacy is among the nation's top three producers of African-American Doctor of Pharmacy degree recipients.
Drexel died in 1955, and in 2000 she was canonized by Pope John Paul II. The ceremony drew many from New Orleans who heard Pope John Paul II say that her life brought about "a growing awareness of the need to combat all forms of racism through education and social services."
Her feast day is March 3.