- 22–26 in
- 47.2–56.7 in
- 28.2–44.1 oz
- Goéland d'Audubon (French)
- Gaviota occidental (Spanish)
- Like most gulls, the Western Gull is an opportunistic feeder, capturing its own live prey, scavenging refuse, or stealing food from seals and other gulls. It is known to steal milk from lactating female seals while they lie on their backs sleeping on the beach.
- The Western Gull hybridizes extensively with the Glaucous-winged Gull, with the hybrids being the most common form in Washington. The hybrids can be similar to the parent adult forms, but usually have intermediate back and wingtip coloring. With the medium-gray back, dark upper surface to wingtips, frosty white undersurface to wingtips and a darkish eye, a hybrid may closely resemble a robust Thayer's Gull. The flatter and larger head of the hybrid, and especially the thick bill with a pronounced angle on the bottom, should help distinguish it from the smaller, slimmer Thayer's Gull.
- The Yellow-footed Gull of the Gulf of California formerly was regarded as a race of the Western Gull. But its legs are a different color, and it also takes only three, not four, years to reach adult plumage.
- In colonies with many more females than males present, two females may establish a pair bond. Each lays eggs, and then takes care of the double-sized brood. The female-biased sex ratio of some Western Gull colonies may have been the result of pollution by pesticides that acted like estrogen and made some male embryos develop as females.
- The oldest recorded Western Gull was at least 33 years, 11 months old, when it was seen and identified by its band in California.
- Breeds on rocky islands.
- Forages at sea, in intertidal areas, along beaches, and at dumps.
- Roosts in fields, dumps, and parking lots.
Marine invertebrates and fishes. Eggs and chicks of seabirds. Scavenges carrion and refuse.
- Clutch Size
- 1–3 eggs
- Egg Description
- Light buff or greenish with dark blotching.
- Condition at Hatching
- Chicks semiprecocial at hatching; may leave nest cup at one day old. Covered in cryptically colored down.
Nest is a scrape in the ground filled with vegetation, feathers, rope, plastic, or other items. Nests in colonies, often with other gull species.
Captures food near surface of water or on shore. Steals food from cormorants and other gulls. Swallows large prey whole. Common at garbage dumps.
Although still common, Western Gull numbers are declining, possibly from the increased frequency of El Niño years that decrease or eliminate nest success. The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan estimates over 77,000 breeding birds in North America, rates the species a 10 out of 20 on the Contienntal Concern Score, and lists them as a Species of Low Concern. Western Gull is not listed on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, but because of its small population size and limited range, the species should be monitored.
- Pierotti, R. J., and C. A. Annett. 1995. Western Gull (Larus occidentalis). In The Birds of North America, No. 174 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union, Washington, D.C.
- Kushlan, J.A., et al. 2002. Waterbird conservation for the Americas: the North American Waterbird Conservation Plan, version 1. Waterbird Conservation for the Americas. Washington, DC.
- North American Bird Conservation Initiative, U.S. Committee. 2014. State of the Birds 2014 Report. U.S. Department of Interior, Washington, DC.
- USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. 2015. Longevity records of North American Birds.