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California Gull

Larus californicus ORDER: CHARADRIIFORMES FAMILY: LARIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A common winter gull of the West Coast, the California Gull breeds inland across large areas of the West. It can be found in parking lots and lakes from California to Manitoba.

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At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
18.5–21.3 in
47–54 cm
Wingspan
51.2 in
130 cm
Weight
15.2–36.9 oz
430–1045 g
Other Names
  • Goéland de Californie (French)
  • Gaviota Californiana (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The California Gull is the "seagull" that came to the aid of Mormon settlers in Utah, helping rid their crops of a plague of grasshoppers. A golden statue in Salt Lake City commemorates the event, and in recognition the California Gull was made the state bird of Utah.
  • The California Gull, like most gulls, is an opportunistic feeder, eating anything it can catch or scavenge. It has an odd foraging strategy for catching alkali flies along the shores of salty lakes in the Great Basin. It starts at one end of a huge raft of flies sitting on the beach and runs through the flies with its head down and bill open, snapping up flies.
  • Both parents incubate the eggs, taking turns throughout the day at about three to four hour intervals. Usually an adult calls as it flies into the nest area. The incubating gull stands up and gives several "Long Calls" as its mate lands near the nest. The returning mate joins in calling, and the pair sometimes walks around their tiny territory together. Sometimes the incubating bird does not stand up right away, and the returning mate has to resort to making different display calls, presenting nest material to the incubator, or physically nudging the bird to get it off the nest.
  • Two different subspecies of California Gull exist. The gulls that breed in the Great Basin region of the western United States are smaller and darker backed, and those breeding in the Great Plains are larger and paler.

Habitat


Lake/Pond

Breeds on islands in lakes or rivers. Forages along lakes, bogs, farm fields, lawns, pastures, sagebrush, garbage dumps, feedlots, parking lots, ocean beaches, and open ocean.

Food


Insects

Fish, insects, earthworms, small mammals, grain, garbage, fruit, marine invertebrates.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
1–4 eggs
Egg Description
Buff to greenish, with dark spots, speckles, splotches, and short swirls.
Nest Description

Nest is a scrape in sand or dirt, lined with vegetation, feathers and bones, or nothing. Nests in colonies.

Nest Placement

Ground

Behavior


Aerial Dive

Forages while walking on land, dips for food on surface of water, follows plows for insects.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Common. Populations have increased over last 100 years.

Credits

  • Winkler, D. W. 1996. California Gull (Larus californicus). In The Birds of North America, No. 259 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.

Range Map Help

California Gull Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings