If you ever wondered why there are thousands of gulls in west Edmonton parking lots, the answer might lie with one person: Monti Braun.
Braun, an Indigenous man from the west coast, says he started feeding seagulls when he moved to the city five years ago. He estimates he’s grown the flock from 1,000 to 5,000.
“They’re like a brother to me. Because I’m the eagle and I’m very very in touch with nature. I know how to talk to them. The more times I come here, the more calm they get,” Braun said.
On Tuesday, Braun scattered rabbit pellets for thousands of birds in the parking lot where the old Rona store used to operate at 170 Street and 100 Avenue, creating a scene similar to something from Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.
Braun found the pellets in the PetSmart dumpster, and he usually feeds them pet food. Sometimes he brings the birds KFC.
“Oh, they love KFC because there’s grease like the fish,” Braun said. “I don’t do it every time. You have to teach the wildlife that they can't rely on it.”
Dr. Gord Court, a provincial wildlife status biologist with Alberta Environment and Parks, said giant gatherings of seagulls aren't uncommon in flat, open areas like parking lots or rooftops where they can see owls and coyotes coming.
"They need somewhere to be safe during the night or to loaf during the days," Court said.
The gulls seen in the video are of two species: California gulls and ring-billed gulls. Many of the gulls in the Edmonton area nest on islands in large lakes like Miquelon Lake and make daily traverses from the city back to the colony to feed their young.
But once the young are old enough, they fly back to the city with the adults and scavenge whatever they can find.
"They damn near eat anything," said Court, adding he's only seen two things make seagulls sick — chocolates and pesticides.
Braun said his connection with the birds is about more than just food. He talks to them, and said they grow to trust calm people.
As for why he spends his time like this, Braun offered a simple explanation.
“I tell people the seagull is the only thing that reminds me of the coast at home. I’m like the captain here. They know I won’t hurt them.”