How to eat a Hamburger in Circular Quay

Image via Tom Häkkinen
Escaping from Circular Quay - home of the swooping
seagulls - on a ferry.
There’s a trick to eating a burger at Circular Quay. First of all you have to remember to hold the burger close to your body, right in front of your heart like some sort of makeshift shield. You should try to avoid walking and eating simultaneously and you should avoid open spaces. In fact, if possible, it’s best to position yourself so that you eat with your back to a wall.

“What is the reason for such surreptitious guardianship of your burger at Circular Quay?” you might ask.


I once bought a burger from the McDonalds at Circular Quay, I can’t remember if it was a Big Mac or just a Cheeseburger, in fact I think it might have been some one-off type of burger, “Bacon and Cheese burger” or something, I remember I bought two because there was a special deal on. Anyway, as I was walking back to the ferry wharf to catch my ferry home - swoop!

My burger was plucked clean out of my hands and hit the floor in front of me where it was immediately set upon by flock of seagulls. I use the collective noun “flock” but in reality “swarm” would be more appropriate. I moved to kick the horrible birds who’d stolen my lunch and they scattered away, but there was not a trace of the burger. It had dematerialised before my eyes in a frenzy of pecking and flapping.

Image via Tom Häkkinen
Nowhere is safe from the damned seagulls - if you're
eating, at least one of them will find you!
Just as well I’d bought two burgers.

I suppose what happened next is predictable for you, dear reader, but unfortunately it wasn’t for me. Having walked further along to my ferry wharf, I took a look over each shoulder to make sure that there weren’t any more of those wretched seagulls and unwrapped my second burger. Then, just as I lifted the burger to my mouth to take a bite.


Seemingly from nowhere and in one clean and continuous motion the seagull flew right over my left shoulder and plucked the burger from my hand just as after I’d taken my first bite. This time I managed to hold on to my burger, but it was a bitter consolation. I wasn’t going to eat a burger that had been in a seagull’s mouth, or beak rather. A whole flock of birds had materialised around me, expecting the food to be on the floor. Well, making straight for the bin, I protected my pecked-at burger from the swooping seagulls long enough to deliver it into the hands of the Sydney City Municipal Rubbish Collection, if I wasn’t going to eat it no-one was!

Image via Tom Häkkinen
I got some relief from that particular seagull pestering me
when her adolescent chick came to pester her for food.
It was only upon later reflection that I realised that there was some canniness behind the swoop mechanics employed by those seagulls. On both occasions the bird flew right over my left shoulder (I’m right-handed) and plucked the burger from my grip just after I’d taken my first bite. Those damned seagulls must’ve been watching from the air and recognising a human burger-eating motion quickly swept into action.

Damned seagulls.


Francis Hunt said...

If I might suggest a classic 80s musical accompaniment ...? :-)

Chibi Janine said...

You never really take into account how big those gulls are until they are quite literally eyeballing you for food. Got to give them credit though they have really developed a excellent food gathering system wonder if its just burgers they are partial to.

JJ said...

There is a God watching over you, Akseli. He had to send His sacred birds to swoop down and swipe your Big Mac. You have been saved.

Judie said...

I can so appreciate this! There is an island on the Georgia coast where Rod and I love to vacation. The sea gulls are very patient. They sit quietly and wait for me to offer them a french fry. They are very polite, those southern gulls!
Don't you wonder just what sort of person names a dog Liz?

Anonymous said...

Such a well written post! I loved the image of the seagull swooping down. And yes, it is amazing how they recognized and took advantage of your movements.

The images in your post are lovely too.

Claude said...

McDonalds would truly appreciate your post. Just think of the publicity: The Burgers that no seagull can resist!....How to find friends, one Burger at a time!...The aroma and taste which will invade the sky!...If it's good for a seagull, it's perfect for a man!....

I'm far enough to laugh safely at your misfortune! Bon Appétit!

Dan Kent said...

Birds are so smart! I love birds. And the English Teacher is .. well, from the perspective of the Math Teacher: Minus 2 burgers, but 2 burgers smarter, and 1 wonderfully well-told story richer. What does that equal? (Sorry, I'm not the math teacher, so I haven't the slightest).

Roxy said...

This story sounds a bit Hitchcockian. Those seagulls look like they mean business. You are a brave man, Akseli.

Akseli Koskela said...

Thanks everyone!

A very apt suggestion Francis.

Chibi J, I dunno, I kind of think the pigeons are the ones who're really on the money food-wise. They've managed to nail the friendly old lady market with their soothing coo-ing and patience.

JJ, you're absolutely right. I shouldn't eat that stuff!

Judie, if only we had some of your Southern gulls. Although I think we're a lot further south our seagulls are aggressive and nasty. If ever you're foolish enough to offer one a chip you can say goodbye to any hopes of a peaceful and relaxing picnic!

Thanks PAMO. Actually that gull was kind of cute the way it was being heckled by its quite grown-up offspring. Still didn't get anything from me though, just a couple of rocks thrown its way.

Claude, I don't mind you having a good laugh. The next day I told my class and they all had a good laugh. Annoying seagulls.

Thanks for the comments Dan. I'm glad you enjoyed the story.

Yes Roxy, they are some mean birds! If you ever visit Sydney, you'll know what to look out for.