Leah Norton-Gaudreau tried everything.
She scattered bird seed. Tossed dog bones. Anything to try to deflect attention from the pastries at the drive-through window.
But this seagull, already accustomed to the finer things in life, saw no reason to alter its dining habits now.
“You’d see feathers flapping and he’d grab a pastry,” Norton-Gaudreau said.
For roughly six months, maybe longer, baristas at Whidbey Coffee in Oak Harbor have been at odds with a bold, web-footed thief who strikes in plain daylight.
Baristas recognize the seagull by a marking on its head that they guess might’ve come from BB gun fire. But they also recognize the bird they call “Bullet” by its brash behavior.
Bullet waits patiently for the baristas to duck back inside the window after the last car is gone before picking off plastic-wrapped pastries on the counter outside the window.
“He has the audacity to be standing right there, grab something and run,” said barista Erin Flannagan.
Bullet had its pick of banana walnut bread, mandarin orange yogurt bread and double chocolate bread, which retailed at $2.45 each.
“On a good day, he’d get four or five of them, sometimes one or two,” Norton-Gaudreau said. “He’d tear the Cellophane off and just mock us.”
Finally, Norton-Gaudreau saw enough. She called the corporate office in Clinton.
She didn’t want to harm the seagull, which is protected under Washington law. She just wanted it to stop wreaking havoc on her business.
“I called and said, ‘We have a thief. It’s not a customer. It’s a bird,’” Norton-Gaudreau said.
A week ago, a solution came from the corporate office. It’s a hard plastic case, which protects the pastries from the elements and intruders.
Seagulls still fly over overhead and are perched on nearby rooftops but baristas at Whidbey Coffee have seen no sign of Bullet since the case arrived.
“I guarantee you if I put a tray back out there, he’s there. He’d be on that tray,” Norton-Gaudreau said. “I know he’s watching.”