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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — It was like a scene from a movie which stopped some people in their tracks: a swarm of seagulls circling above Providence’s pedestrian bridge and diving into the river.

“I’ve never seen this many birds,” Brown student Sidehartha Kalala said. “I usually take this bridge to go to my lab over there and it’s usually super peaceful, nice, calm walk.”

“There’s crazy amounts of gulls here, so I was just wondering what’s going on,” city resident Jeff Hartly added.

The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) told 12 News the gathering of gulls is due to a recent “fish kill” in the river. It’s an all-you-can-eat buffet for black-backed and herring gulls as they go after a species of fish called menhaden.

DEM spokesman Mike Healey said the fish kill is a natural event.

“These fish are dying because there’s not enough oxygen given the number of fish in the schools,” Healey explained. “Hundreds, thousands die. For every single fish that’s dead, though, there’s a hundred fish that are living.”

“I think probably because we had a mild winter this past winter, we had more schools of these menhaden sort of hanging around in the rivers,” Healey said.

As for how long the gulls stick around, Healey said it’s impossible to tell if this will be a yearly occurrence, adding that it depends on environmental factors.

“I think it’s going to be a food supply thing,” he said. “They are going to be here as long as the menhaden are here.”

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