- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Laridae
The Western Gull is widespread along Pacific beaches of the U.S. and Baja California, where its large size and dark back set it apart from other local gulls. Be aware that hybrids between Western and Glaucous-winged Gulls are common, particularly in the Pacific Northwest. These large gulls eat a wide variety of fish, marine invertebrates, and carrion, both along the shoreline and out at sea. Although they are fairly common within their range, Western Gull numbers have declined, placing the species on the Partners in Flight Yellow Watch List.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Western Gulls are common year-round, although they stay close to saltwater and rarely travel very far inland. Take a walk along the ocean and watch for a large, dark-backed gull. On flying birds, look for the dark-topped primary feathers to show through from below. In the northern part of the range especially, take care to rule out hybrids with Glaucous-winged Gulls, which can look similar to the paler-backed northern subspecies of Western Gull.
- Gaviota occidental (Spanish)
- Goéland d'Audubon (French)
- Cool Facts
- Like most gulls, the Western Gull is an opportunistic feeder, capturing its own prey, scavenging trash, or stealing food from seals and other gulls. Sometimes they even steal milk from mother seals while they're asleep.
- The Western Gull hybridizes so extensively with the Glaucous-winged Gull that in Washington, hybrids are more common than either species. The hybrids usually have intermediate back and wingtip coloring. With the medium-gray back, dark upper wingtips, frosty under the wingtips, and darkish eye, hybrids may closely resemble a large Iceland Gull (Thayer's form). 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 known Western Gull was a banded individual in California. It was at least 33 years and 11 months old when it was resighted in 2007.