- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Laridae
The Little Gull is the world’s smallest gull—a dainty species with a small bill and distinctive dark underwings (on adults). Its graceful flight style recalls a tern, except for its rounded wingtips. It feeds like a tern too, flying low over the water and sometimes hovering to catch insects, small fish, and aquatic invertebrates. Primarily a species of Eurasia, the Little Gull has a small nesting population along Hudson Bay and the Great Lakes, and is a rarity elsewhere on the continent.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Finding a Little Gull in North America can be tricky! The best bet is to find a large flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls (which are very slightly larger) and scan it carefully, looking for the telltale charcoal underwings, gray (not white) outer primaries, and smudgy crown of an adult Little Gull, or the bold “M” upperwing pattern of a juvenile with a black-banded tail.
- Gaviota Enana (Spanish)
- Mouette pygmée (French)
- Cool Facts
- Nesting Little Gulls are rare in North America, and only about 70 nests have been found (or suspected), all in wetlands of the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River basin, and the Hudson Bay and James Bay lowlands.
- The first record of Little Gull in North America was in 1819, but the first nest was not discovered until 1962. After that time, numbers increased and sightings became more frequent. Whether the species had always been present in small numbers or if it newly colonized the continent in the 1960s is unknown.
- In North America the Little Gull is most frequently observed during winter and on migration in groups of one to three, usually associated with larger flocks of Bonaparte's Gulls.
- The oldest known Little Gull was found in Finland, a banded individual that lived to be at least 20 years, 11 months old.