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It is said in coastal areas that the souls of drowned sailors and fishermen may become seagulls, and that therefore these birds should never be killed; the belief is fairly widely known nowadays, but the first record given by Opie and Tatem (1989: 345–6) is only from 1878. Occasionally gulls are linked with death in a more general way; in the 1970s a Sussex woman commented that some had swooped into her garden ‘as a warning’ on the day her sick mother died [JS].

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