Photo: Byron Chin/Flickr Creative Commons

California Gull

Larus californicus

Part of a complex of similar gulls, this bird closely resembles the Herring Gull or Ring-billed Gull, and is intermediate between those two in size. It nests around lakes in the interior of the west, and winters commonly along the Pacific Coast, including offshore waters. This was the species that came to the rescue of the Mormon settlers whose crops were threatened by a grasshopper plague in 1848, inspiring the seagull monument in Salt Lake City.
Conservation status Has increased in many areas during recent decades.
Family Gulls and Terns
Habitat Seacoasts, lakes, farms, urban centers. Breeds in the interior at lakes and marshes, often foraging for insects around farms, plowed fields. Some winter inland around major lakes and rivers, but most are coastal at that season, frequenting beaches, docks, garbage dumps, fields. Sometimes common well offshore in winter.
Part of a complex of similar gulls, this bird closely resembles the Herring Gull or Ring-billed Gull, and is intermediate between those two in size. It nests around lakes in the interior of the west, and winters commonly along the Pacific Coast, including offshore waters. This was the species that came to the rescue of the Mormon settlers whose crops were threatened by a grasshopper plague in 1848, inspiring the seagull monument in Salt Lake City.
Photo Gallery
  • adult, breeding
  • immature (1st year)
  • immature (2nd year)
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • immature (1st year)
Feeding Behavior

Forages while walking, wading, swimming, or flying. May hover and dip down to pick items from surface of land or water. Sometimes follows plow in farm fields to pick up insects exposed in the furrows.


Eggs

2-3, sometimes 1-5. Clutches of more than 3 result from 2 females laying in same nest. Eggs brown, olive, gray, or buff, blotched with dark brown or gray. Incubation is by both parents, 23-27 days. Young: May leave nest when a few days old, but remain in immediate area. Both parents feed young, by regurgitation. Young can fly at about 45 days after hatching.


Young

May leave nest when a few days old, but remain in immediate area. Both parents feed young, by regurgitation. Young can fly at about 45 days after hatching.

Diet

Varied, includes insects, fish, eggs, refuse. Summer diet inland is mostly insects; also worms, spiders, rodents, eggs and young of other birds, and carrion. On coast, eats fish and other marine life, also scavenges for refuse around garbage dumps, fishing piers.


Nesting

Breeds in colonies, sometimes very large, and sometimes mixed with Ring-billed Gulls or other birds; the nests may be quite close together. Nest site is on ground near lake or marsh, often on island. Nest (built by both sexes) is shallow depression, usually lined with weeds, grass, debris, feathers.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

From breeding grounds in interior, most migrate west or southwest to Pacific Coast. Surprisingly few move south to Gulf Coast; extremely rare east to Atlantic Coast. Birds too young to breed may remain along Pacific Coast through the summer.

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Migration

From breeding grounds in interior, most migrate west or southwest to Pacific Coast. Surprisingly few move south to Gulf Coast; extremely rare east to Atlantic Coast. Birds too young to breed may remain along Pacific Coast through the summer.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A repetitive kee-yah.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Gulls and Terns Gull-like Birds

California Gull

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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