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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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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

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

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Songs and Calls

A repetitive kee-yah.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the California Gull

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate Threats Near You

Climate threats facing the California Gull

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.