The Trentonian's Strange But True Page

Monday, March 31, 2008

Well, who doesn't like doughnuts?

DULUTH, Minn. - Steven Seagull has returned to the Super 8 motel here, looking for his customary cake doughnut. Year after year, the ring-billed gull has tapped at the lobby's front door until a staff member gives him the doughnut, said general manager Jodi Chambers.
"If it's quiet in the lobby, you can hear him tapping on it," Chambers said. "But if we're busy, he starts squawking like crazy."
Steven returned Wednesday.
Chambers said she's sure it's the same bird because he behaves the same way every year. For one thing, Steven chases away other gulls looking for his food.
"We don't feed them if there's more than one, and he's figured that out," Chambers said.
Leslie Larsen, the education director of the Lake Superior Zoo, said Steven Seagull has learned to respond to positive reinforcement.
"What I do know is that animals, they don't necessarily have to be intelligent to respond to what we call operant conditioning," she said. "Without knowing it or meaning to, they've trained that gull. They've given him a positive consequence to come back."
Whatever the reason, Chambers said Steven is a hit. "The guests love it," she said. "I've had a few come in and say 'We came to check out your bird.'"


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