A research team from the University of California at Irvine announced last week that 14 per cent of the seagulls on Santa Barbara Island, 40 miles from Los Angeles, are gay. Naturally, everybody else in the country is going around saying, "That's California for you."

Then an unidentified citizens task force in New York counter-announced in The New York Daily News that 100 per cent of the seagulls in five boroughs of New York are strictly heterosexual. Nobody asked them, but, then, that's New York for you.

Of course it is extremely unfortunate than people keep trying to make these sexual discoveries interesting, instead of scientific. The only justification for so many grown-ups satisfying their curiosity about sex on university and government funds is that the subject has been made, through the miracle of academia, properly dull.

The research on seagulls must be viewed in this manner. Otherwise, there is very little justification for barging into a bunch of private nests just to see how they do it.

How they do it, according to the California researchers, whose case sounds more convincing than the New Yorkers' to any cynic who's been around for a while, is that two lesbian seagulls establish a nest together and the hell with what the neighbors say. "We were absolutely astounded," said one of the researchers. "This sort of thing has not been found before and was clearly not what we anticipated."

Oh, come on. Never mind showing us how shocked you are. What is the real meaning of this behavior?

Is it, in fact, a perfectly normal option for seagulls who have no wish to follow the majority preferences? Does it have any relation to the gulls' upbringing or the sex education to which they were exposed? Is it a fad? Is it a political statement? Is it any of anybody's business?

What does it tell us about a state in which this is tolerated, and a state in which it apparently is not?

How do we really feel about what goes on between two adult birds in the privacy of their own nest? That's the question somebody ought to be studying, if it simply weren't so profoundly uninteresting.