|Conservation status||Widespread and common in far north; not much affected by human activities. No obvious trend in population. An adaptable bird, perhaps less vulnerable to the effects of climate change than other Arctic species.|
|Family||Gulls and Terns|
|Habitat||Mainly coastal. At most seasons favors coastal bays and estuaries, but also occurs well offshore at times; small numbers may be found around large lakes well inland in winter. Nests on cliff ledges, islands, beaches.|
Feeds as both a predator and a scavenger; also steals food from other birds. Forages while walking or swimming; in flight, may swoop down to pick items from surface of water, or may catch smaller birds in the air.
3, sometimes 2-4. Olive to buff, blotched with dark brown. Incubation is by both sexes, 27-28 days. Young: Both parents feed young. Downy young may leave nest a few days after hatching, but remain in general area. Age at first flight probably about 45-50 days, with young becoming independent soon thereafter.
Both parents feed young. Downy young may leave nest a few days after hatching, but remain in general area. Age at first flight probably about 45-50 days, with young becoming independent soon thereafter.
Omnivorous. Diet highly variable, includes fish, mollusks, crustaceans, marine worms, sea urchins, insects, birds, eggs, berries, seaweed, carrion. Often scavenges refuse around towns, fishing boats.
Breeds in colonies or in isolated pairs. Nest site is on cliff top, flat rocky ground, rocky outcrop; sometimes on ice or snow. Nest (built by both sexes) is a mound of grasses, moss, seaweed, and debris, with a shallow depression at the top.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Many remain in winter as far north as there is open water. A few move well south along both coasts of United States, and to Great Lakes; scattered singles may turn up anywhere inland or on Gulf Coast.
- 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.Learn more
Songs and CallsHoarse croaks and screams.
Learn more about this sound collection.