California gull

The California gull (Larus californicus), or seagull, is a medium-sized gull, smaller on average than the herring gull but larger on average than the ring-billed gull, though it may overlap in size greatly with both.

California gull
Larus californicus Palo Alto May 2011 009
California gull in Palo Alto, California
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Laridae
Genus: Larus
L. californicus
Binomial name
Larus californicus
  • L. c. californicus Lawrence, 1854
    Great Basin California gull
  • L. c. albertaensis Jehl, 1987
    Great Plains Galifornia gull
Larus californicus map
California Gull (Larus californicus) RWD2
In California


Adults are similar in appearance to the herring gull, but have a smaller yellow bill with a black ring, yellow legs, brown eyes and a more rounded head. The body is mainly white with grey back and upper wings. They have black primaries with white tips. Immature birds are also similar in appearance to immature herring gulls, with browner plumage than immature ring-billed gulls. Length can range from 46 to 55 cm (18 to 22 in), the wingspan 122–137 cm (48–54 in) and body mass can vary from 430 to 1,045 g (0.948 to 2.304 lb).[2]

I Surrender All - Said the Gull
Winter plumage, California

Their breeding habitat is lakes and marshes in interior western North America from Northwest Territories, Canada south to eastern California and Colorado.[3] They nest in colonies, sometimes with other birds. The nest is a shallow depression on the ground lined with vegetation and feathers. The female usually lays 2 or 3 eggs. Both parents feed the young birds.

They are migratory, most moving to the Pacific coast in winter. It is only then that this bird is regularly found in western California.[3]

These birds forage in flight or pick up objects while swimming, walking or wading. They mainly eat insects, fish and the eggs of other birds. They also scavenge at garbage dumps, marinas and docks. They frequently beg for food at public beaches, parks and other locations where people will hand feed them. They may follow plows in fields for insects stirred up by this activity.

This is the state bird of Utah,[4] remembered for assisting Mormon settlers in dealing with a plague of Mormon crickets.[5] A monument in Salt Lake City commemorates this event, known as the "Miracle of the Gulls".[5]


There are two subspecies recognized, the nominate from the Great Basin to central Montana and Wyoming, and the slightly larger, paler L. c. albertaensis with a more northerly distribution, ranging from Great Slave Lake onto the Great Plains of western Manitoba and South Dakota.[6] Although these subspecies are not well distinguishable by mtDNA allozyme variation,[7] they breed true and the low genetic divergence can be explained by separation during the Pleistocene and renewed contact in Montana during more recent times.[8]

Finley & Bohlman Slides150
Hand-painted glass slide of a colony of California gulls at Malheur Lake, taken by Finley and Bohlman during a 1908 photograph trip to the area. Finley and Bohlman's photographs would later help Malheur become a bird refuge in 1908.

Status in California

In California, the California gull recently held the protected status California Species of Special Concern due to declining numbers at their historic California breeding colony at Mono Lake. However, in recent decades this species has begun to breed in the southern portion of San Francisco Bay, where it did not historically breed, and has undergone exponential population growth. These California gulls now inhabit large, remote salt-production ponds and levees and have a very large food source provided by nearby landfills from San Francisco, San Jose and other urban areas, all the way up into the Sacramento area. The South Bay California gull population has grown from less than 1,000 breeding birds in 1982 to over 33,000 in 2006. This population boom has resulted in large resident flocks of gulls that will opportunistically prey on other species, particularly the eggs and nestlings of other birds. Seriously threatened birds that share the same South Bay habitat include the snowy plover and California least tern, while less-threatened birds including black-necked stilts, American avocets, Forster's terns, and Caspian terns are also preyed upon by the abnormally large flocks of California gulls. Efforts are underway to reduce habitat for this species and find other ways to disperse the large numbers of gulls.[9] Contrary to its name, the California Gull is the state bird of Utah.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Larus californicus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses by John B. Dunning Jr. (Editor). CRC Press (1992), ISBN 978-0-8493-4258-5.
  3. ^ a b Sibley, David Allen (2000): The Sibley Guide to Birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. ISBN 0-679-45122-6
  4. ^ "Utah State Bird". Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  5. ^ a b Ryser, Fred A. (1985). Birds of the Great Basin. Reno, NV, USA: University of Nevada Press. p. 203. ISBN 0-87417-080-X. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  6. ^ Jehl, Joseph R., Jr. (1987). "Geographic variation and evolution in the California Gull (Larus californicus)" (PDF). Auk. 104 (3): 421–428. doi:10.2307/4087540.
  7. ^ Karl, S. A.; Zink, R. M.; Jehl, Joseph R. Jr. (1987). "Allozyme analysis of the California Gull (Larus californicus)" (PDF). Auk. 104 (4): 767–769. JSTOR 4087291.
  8. ^ Jehl, Joseph R., Jr.; Francine, J; Bond, S. I. (1990). "Growth patterns of two races of California Gulls raised in a common environment" (PDF). Condor. 92 (3): 732–738. doi:10.2307/1368692.
  9. ^ Ackerman, J. T., J. Y. Takekawa, C. Strong, N. Athearn, and A. Rex. (2006) California Gull distribution, abundance, and predation on waterbird eggs and chicks in South San Francisco Bay. Final Report, U. S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological and Research Center, Davis and Vallejo, CA.

External links

Andean gull

The Andean gull (Chroicocephalus serranus) is a species of gull in the family Laridae. As is the case with many gulls, it has traditionally been placed in the genus Larus.

It is found in the Andes in mountainous regions of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. It is unusual for a gull in that it breeds inland in mountain areas. It may be variously found around rivers, freshwater lakes, saline marshes, and pastureland.

Armenian gull

The Armenian gull (Larus armenicus) is a large gull found in the Caucasus and Middle East. It was formerly classified as a subspecies of the herring gull (L. argentatus) but is now generally considered to be a separate species although BirdLife International lumps it with the yellow-legged gull (L. michahellis).

The Armenian gull is a fairly large gull species, though is on average the smallest of the "herring gull" complex. It can range from 52 to 62 cm (20 to 24 in), from 120 to 145 cm (47 to 57 in) across the wings and weighs from 600 to 960 g (1.32 to 2.12 lb). Among standard measurements, its wing chord is 38.5 to 45.8 cm (15.2 to 18.0 in), its bill is 4.1 to 5.6 cm (1.6 to 2.2 in) and its tarsus is 5.7 to 6.4 cm (2.2 to 2.5 in). They are superficially similar to yellow-legged gulls but are slightly smaller with a slightly darker grey back and dark eyes. The area of black on the wingtips is more extensive with smaller white spots. The bill is short with a distinctive black band just before the tip. First-winter birds are mainly brown. They have a whitish rump, pale inner primary feathers and a narrow, sharply-defined black band on the tail. Although their ranges do not overlap, with its darkish mantle, both black and red near the tip of its bill and a dark eye, the Armenian gull bears a remarkable resemblance to the California gull of North America.

The Armenian gull nests beside mountain lakes in Georgia, Armenia, Turkey and western Iran. The largest colonies are at Lake Sevan and Lake Arpi in Armenia. It is a partial migrant with many birds wintering on the coasts of Turkey, Lebanon and Israel. Smaller numbers reach Cyprus, Egypt and the Persian Gulf.

The nest is a mound of vegetation built on the ground on an island or the lakeshore. Three eggs are laid, mainly in late April. The nesting colonies are very dense with nests close together and territorial conflicts common.


Chroicocephalus is a genus of medium to relatively small gulls which were included in the genus Larus until recently. Some authorities also include the Saunders's gull in Chroicocephalus. The genus name Chroicocephalus is from Ancient Greek khroizo, "to colour", and kephale, "head".Representatives of this genus are found in regions/subregions all over the world, each species usually being confined to a region.

D River State Recreation Site

D River State Recreation Site (also D River State Wayside and D River State Park) is a state park in the U.S. state of Oregon, administered by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. It is a sandy beach of the Pacific Ocean within central Lincoln City along the length of the 120-foot (37 m) long D River, one of the world's shortest rivers.

The site provides public access to Wecoma Beach, part of Lincoln City's 7.5 miles (12.1 km) of beach. There is parking and day use facilities, and no fees. The site has access to river and ocean fishing.Two of the world's largest kite flying festivals are held here, one in the spring and one in the fall, as well as a summer kite festival which features several professional kite fliers. It was named by Kitelines Magazine as one of the best places in the world to fly a kite. The area also has two year-round 10-kilometre (6.2 mi) Volkssport walking courses.D River State Recreation Site is considered among the ten best places along the Oregon coast for whale watching. Whale watching guide volunteers are present one week in January and one in March to help visitors see and understand the whale migration.The area of ocean where the D River enters the sea creates consistent year-round surfing conditions suitable for intermediate skills.Like many Oregon coast locations, flocks of seagulls are frequently present in winter. The most common species are western gull, glaucous-winged gull, and California gull. Occasionally Thayer's gull and American herring gull are observed here.

Franklin's gull

The Franklin's gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan) is a small (length 12.6–14.2 in, 32–36 cm) gull. The genus name Leucophaeus is from Ancient Greek leukos, "white", and phaios, "dusky". The specific pipixcan is a Nahuatl name for a type of gull.


Gulls or seagulls are seabirds of the family Laridae in the suborder Lari. They are most closely related to the terns (family Sternidae) and only distantly related to auks, skimmers, and more distantly to the waders. Until the 21st century, most gulls were placed in the genus Larus, but this arrangement is now considered polyphyletic, leading to the resurrection of several genera. An older name for gulls is mews, cognate with German Möwe, Danish måge, Dutch meeuw, and French mouette; this term can still be found in certain regional dialects.Gulls are typically medium to large birds, usually grey or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They typically have harsh wailing or squawking calls; stout, longish bills; and webbed feet. Most gulls are ground-nesting carnivores which take live food or scavenge opportunistically, particularly the Larus species. Live food often includes crabs and small fish. Gulls have unhinging jaws which allow them to consume large prey. Gulls are typically coastal or inland species, rarely venturing far out to sea, except for the kittiwakes. The large species take up to four years to attain full adult plumage, but two years is typical for small gulls. Large white-headed gulls are typically long-lived birds, with a maximum age of 49 years recorded for the herring gull.Gulls nest in large, densely packed, noisy colonies. They lay two or three speckled eggs in nests composed of vegetation. The young are precocial, born with dark mottled down and mobile upon hatching. Gulls are resourceful, inquisitive, and intelligent, the larger species in particular, demonstrating complex methods of communication and a highly developed social structure. For example, many gull colonies display mobbing behavior, attacking and harassing predators and other intruders. Certain species have exhibited tool-use behavior, such as the herring gull, using pieces of bread as bait with which to catch goldfish, for example. Many species of gulls have learned to coexist successfully with humans and have thrived in human habitats. Others rely on kleptoparasitism to get their food. Gulls have been observed preying on live whales, landing on the whale as it surfaces to peck out pieces of flesh.

Gunnison Island

Gunnison Island is located in the northwest quadrant of the Great Salt Lake in Box Elder County, Utah, United States (41.339°N 112.858°W / 41.339; -112.858), approximately 55 miles (89 km) northwest of Salt Lake City and about 6 miles (9.7 km) east from the lake's western shore. Approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) long and 0.5 miles (0.80 km) wide, Gunnison Island is best known as an important rookery for the American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchus). The California gull (Larus californicus) also nests on the island, and occasional nesters include the great blue heron (Ardea herodias), common raven (Corvus corax), prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus), and rock wren (Salpinctes obsoltetus).The entire island is the Gunnison Island State Wildlife Management Area. Access to the island is restricted to prevent curious tourists from disturbing the nesting birds.It is estimated that the population on Gunnison Island (about 10,000) constitutes about 10–20% of the entire American white pelican population; there are also about 15,000 California gulls that nest on the island.Historically, the island's remote location protected it from predators, which made it an ideal spot for ground-nesting birds. However, due to recent low lake levels, it is no longer an island; it is connected to shore by a land bridge which predators can use.

The remoteness also forces the pelicans to travel 30 miles (48 km) or more to find fresh water and food. The pelicans typically fly east to the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, where the Bear River flows into the Great Salt Lake. In the bird refuge, the water's salinity is low enough that fish can live there. (The Great Salt Lake contains no fish.)

The pelicans have also been known to fly south to Utah Lake, about 100 miles (160 km) away. To get to their destinations, large flocks of adult pelicans ride thermals to a great height, then coast down to their destination.


Ichthyaetus is a genus of gulls. The genus name is from Ancient Greek ikhthus, "fish", and aetos, "eagle". They were previously included in the genus Larus.

Island View Beach

Island View Beach is located on the Eastern Cordova shore of the Saanich Peninsula, near Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

A real treasure for people who like quiet nature settings, with views of Mount Baker, and Islands of the Gulf Island National Park Reserve. (Sidney Spit-(Sidney Island) and D'Arcy Island)

Families and Nature Enthusiasts will enjoy walking the many meadow trails, to learn about the various plant and animal species. ( not all trails are accessible for persons who require hard flat surfaces). There is several kilometers of shoreline for walking, with excellent shorebird viewing, and millions of interesting rocks along the way.

Much of the southern part of the foreshore make up the public Island View Beach Regional Park. Long inhabited by the native [Coast Salish peoples], the Tsawout First Nation has a reservation fronting much of the northern end of the beach. The Tsawout have been living and gathering seafood from the ocean and well as gathering local medicinal plants, as part of the culture for thousands of years. The first known European visitors were James Douglas and first mate Scott M. Jenkin in the latter half of the 18th century. Located southwest of James Island, to locals it is known as the "Beach of Destiny". Located at Homathko and Puckle Road, public parking. There is a public campground (part of the regional park) which is open for the summer season from the Victoria Day long weekend in May to the Labour Day long weekend in September.

Visitors should be aware there is off leash dog restrictions from June 1 to September 15. Dogs should be kept on leash in beach and picnic areas and are not allowed to stay overnight. Island View Beach Regional Park ("I-View") is a BC Regional Park, therefore facilities are located for those who are in need of garbage cans and or washrooms. Island View Beach has a boat launch for access to Haro Strait and the Cordova Channel.

Visitors and Nature Photographers are treated in the spring and fall, to view migratory birds that stop here to rest and feed . Presently there is concern in conservation of the Beach, Sand Dune, and Salt Marsh that support a vast eco system, (endangered Species) within the Island View Beach area. An outdated park plan exists, which is presently under review, and will be updated to reflect conservation strategies.

The Island View Beach terrain consists of beach, dune, and marshland, that supports a wide range of local wild animal and plant species. Due to human activity over the last century this ecological area has placed local wild animal and plant species to possible risk, and endangerment.

Possible species at risk have been identified as:

Contorted Pod Evening Primrose,

Sand Verbena moth,

Common Night Hawk,

Bank Swallow,

Barn Swallow,

Marbled Murrelet,

Olive-sided Flycatcher,

Peregrine Falcon,

Horned Grebe,

Great Blue Heron,

Short-eared Owl,

Long-billed Curlew,

Western Grebe,

Ancient Murrelet,

Band-tailed Pigeon,

Georgia Basin Bog Spider,

Common Murre,

Brandt's Cormorant,


Cackling Goose,

Long-tailed Duck,

California Gull,

Surf Scoter,

Red-necked Phalarope,

Purple Martin,

Yellow Sand-verbena,

Beach Bindweed,

American Glehnia,

Fleshy Jaumea,

Black Knotweed,

Double-crested Cormorant,

Snowy Owl,

Caspian Tern


Larus is a large genus of gulls with worldwide distribution (by far the greatest species diversity is in the Northern Hemisphere). The genus name is from Ancient Greek laros (λάῥος) or Latin Larus which appears to have referred to a gull or other large seabird.Many of its species are abundant and well-known birds in their ranges. Until about 2005–2007, most gulls were placed in this genus, but this arrangement is now known to be polyphyletic, leading to the resurrection of the genera Ichthyaetus, Chroicocephalus, Leucophaeus, and Hydrocoloeus (this last had been recognized more often than the other genera) for several species traditionally included in Larus.

They are in general medium to large birds, typically grey or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They have stout, longish bills and webbed feet.

The taxonomy of the large gulls in the herring and lesser black-backed complex is very complicated, different authorities recognising between two and eight species.


Leucophaeus is a small genus of medium-sized New World gulls, most of which are dark in plumage, usually with white crescents above and below the eyes. They were placed in the genus Larus until recently. The genus name Leucophaeus is from Ancient Greek leukos, "white", and phaios, "dusky".

List of U.S. state birds

Below is a list of U.S. state birds as designated by each state's legislature, as well as the District of Columbia's state bird. The list also contains U.S. territory birds as designated by each territory's legislature. The selection of state birds began in 1927, when the legislatures for Alabama, Florida, Maine, Missouri, Oregon, Texas and Wyoming selected their state birds. The last state to choose its bird was Arizona in 1973. Alaska, California, and South Dakota permit hunting of their state birds. Pennsylvania has adopted a "state game bird" but not a state bird, while Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee have designated an additional "state game bird" for the purpose of hunting. The northern cardinal is the state bird of seven states, followed by the western meadowlark as the state bird of six states. Several states have extinct official animals, such as state dinosaurs in addition to state insects, state butterflies, state mammals and state reptiles. The District of Columbia designated a district bird in 1938. Each of the five inhabited territories of the United States has a designated territorial bird (except for American Samoa).

List of Utah state symbols

The U.S. state of Utah has 26 official symbols, as designated by the Utah State Legislature, and three unofficial symbols. All official symbols, except the Great Seal, are listed in Title 63G of Utah Code. In 1896, Utah became a state, and on April 3 the Utah legislature, in its first regular session, adopted its first symbol, the Great Seal of the State of Utah.Many unique symbols of Utah are related to Utah's pioneer heritage, such as the California gull, the beehive, the dutch oven and the Sego Lily. Utah has symbols that are used by multiple states. For example, the honey bee, Utah's state insect, is also a symbol of Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Miracle of the gulls

The miracle of the gulls is an 1848 event often credited by Latter-day Saints ("Mormons") for saving the Mormon pioneers' second harvest in the Salt Lake Valley. While absent in contemporary accounts, later accounts claimed seagulls miraculously saved the 1848 crops by eating thousands of insects that were devouring their fields. The first crop was planted in 1847 just a few days after they entered the valley, which was very late in the growing season and produced a meager but utilizable harvest. The following spring, using seed from the first harvest, they planted their second crop, only to watch in dismay as the crickets attacked. Less than two years prior in October 1846 many of them were saved by quail that flew into their camp, on their trek to the Great Salt Lake and made available as food.

Mono Lake Committee

The Mono Lake Committee (MLC) is an environmental organization based in Lee Vining, California in the United States. Its mission is to preserve Mono Lake, by reducing diversions of water from the Eastern Sierra watersheds by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP).

The Committee was founded in 1978 by David Gaines, David Winkler, and Sally Judy. In 1975, David Winkler, Jefferson Burch, and Christine Weigen obtained a grant, with help and encouragement from David Gaines, from the NSF to study the ecology of Mono Lake. He had found that, starting in 1941, LADWP's diversions of water from Mono Lake's inflow creeks had caused it to lose half its volume and double its salinity. These changes, Gaines reported, reduced the ability of the lake to support its saline ecosystem.

Mono Lake is an important habitat for migratory birds (including the California gull). The lowering of the water level endangered the bird nesting grounds on Negit Island in the middle of the lake: a land bridge had formed, which allowed predators to attack the bird nests.

In 1979, the MLC, along with the Audubon Society filed suit in Mono County, California Superior Court, claiming that LADWP's water diversions violated the public trust doctrine: that all navigable water must be managed for the benefit of everyone. In 1983, MLC won the argument in front of the California Supreme Court, who directed that the public trust doctrine overrides prior water rights.

Eventually, multiple litigations were adjudicated in 1994, by the California State Water Resources Control Board. In that ruling, LADWP was required to let enough water into Mono Lake to raise the lake level 17.4 metres (57.1 ft) above the then-current level of 42.4 feet (12.9 m) below the 1941 level. As of 2018, the water level in Mono Lake has risen 7.3 feet (2.2 m) of the required 17.4 feet (5.3 m). Los Angeles made up for the lost water through state-funded conservation and recycling projects.

Negit Island

Negit Island is an island in Mono Lake. Negit (along with nearby Paoha Island) is a volcanic cone less than 2000 years old. It can be considered to be the northernmost of the Mono Craters. Negit is composed of three dark dacite lava flows.

Negit is an important nesting ground for migratory birds, including the California gull, which can often be seen wheeling in the air above Mono Lake. The fall of the lake level since 1941 created a land bridge to the island. The land bridge permitted predators, such as coyotes, to raid the bird eggs of the island. However, since 1994, the lake level has been permitted to rise and the land bridge is currently submerged.

Negit Island is accessible by boats (commonly kayaks). However, the island is off-limits from April 1 through August 1, to protect the nesting gulls.

Pacific gull

The Pacific gull (Larus pacificus) is a very large gull, native to the coasts of Australia. It is moderately common between Carnarvon in the west, and Sydney in the east, although it has become scarce in some parts of the south-east, as a result of competition from the kelp gull, which has "self-introduced" since the 1940s.

Much larger than the ubiquitous silver gull, and nowhere near as common, Pacific gulls are usually seen alone or in pairs, loafing around the shoreline, steadily patrolling high above the edge of the water, or (sometimes) zooming high on the breeze to drop a shellfish or sea urchin onto rocks.

Relict gull

The relict gull or Central Asian gull (Ichthyaetus relictus) is a medium-sized gull. It was believed to be an eastern race of the Mediterranean gull until 1971 and was traditionally placed in the genus Larus.

Ring-billed gull

The ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis) is a medium-sized gull. The genus name is from Latin Larus which appears to have referred to a gull or other large seabird. The specific delawarensis refers to the Delaware River.

Gulls (family: Laridae)


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