- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Laridae
The Short-billed Gull is a small, almost dainty gull that superficially resembles many other white-headed gulls with black wingtips, including California, Iceland, and Ring-billed. On a closer look, Short-billed Gulls are notably smaller, with a delicate, thin bill and round, almost dovelike head. On their Alaskan and Canadian breeding grounds, they sometimes nest in trees like Bonaparte’s Gulls. Short-billed Gulls are versatile foragers, able to catch fish and insects, steal food from other seabirds, or pick up scraps of grain, berries, or carrion from the ground.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Short-billed Gulls breed in Alaska and northern Canada, but most birdwatchers encounter them in the nonbreeding season, when they're fairly common along the Pacific Coast of Canada and the U.S. Look for them on Pacific beaches as well as adjacent estuaries and grassy fields. They frequently gather in flocks of other gull species; look through them for a smaller individual with a small head, thin bill, and dark eye. Spotting scopes are always helpful for scanning flocks of gulls, if you have one or can borrow one.
- Gaviota de Alaska (Spanish)
- Goéland à bec court (French)
- Cool Facts
The Short-billed Gull was often called “Mew Gull” until 2021, when it was split from the Common Gull of Eurasia and officially renamed. The name Mew Gull has an interesting history. "Mew" is derived not from its catlike call but rather from “zee meeuw,” an old Dutch name for the bird, Zee in Dutch means “sea” and meeuw means “gull.” Thus, the Mew Gull—in Dutch, at least—really is a “sea gull.”
Although the Short-billed Gull is a common bird along the Pacific Coast, it is a rarity in the East. Similar-looking birds that appear along the Atlantic Coast are likely to be Common Gulls from Europe.
The Short-billed Gull is the only white-headed gull that regularly uses trees for nesting.
The oldest recorded Short-billed Gull was at least 20 years, 8 months old when it was found in British Columbia in 2007. It was banded in Alaska in 1986.