|Conservation status||Has been steadily increasing in numbers in recent decades. Since it is a predator on eggs and young, its increase may cause problems for populations of other coastal bird species.|
|Family||Gulls and Terns|
|Habitat||Primarily coastal. Most common around bays, estuaries, beaches, rocky shorelines. Visits fresh ponds and garbage dumps near coast. Sometimes far offshore over continental shelf, well out of sight of land. Very rare around inland lakes and rivers. Nests mainly on low, flat islands.|
Forages while walking or swimming, or may plunge into water from flight. May drop hard-shelled clams and crabs onto rocks while in flight to break them open. Associates with feeding bears and other predators to pick up scraps they leave behind.
2-3, sometimes 1-4. Olive to yellow-green, marked with scrawls and blotches of brown and gray. Incubation is by both sexes, 26-29 days. Young: Downy young may leave nest 2 days after hatching, remain in vicinity. Both parents feed young. Age at first flight 37-53 days after hatching; leave colony about 2 weeks later on average.
Downy young may leave nest 2 days after hatching, remain in vicinity. Both parents feed young. Age at first flight 37-53 days after hatching; leave colony about 2 weeks later on average.
Omnivorous. Diet includes fish, limpets, chitons, clams, mussels, sea urchins, barnacles, crabs, squid. Also smaller birds, eggs, small mammals, some plant material. Scavenges refuse in garbage dumps, and eats carrion.
First breeds at age of 4 years or older. Breeds in colonies, often densely packed. Nest site is on ground, sometimes on cliff or roof. Nest (built by both sexes) is a shallow scrape lined with grass, moss, seaweed, debris. Pair may begin building several nests, but complete only one.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
Download Our Bird Guide App
Present all year in much of range, but some withdrawal in winter from northernmost areas in western Alaska. Many disperse well to the south in winter, reaching northwestern Mexico. Very rare migrant inland.
- 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 CallsA raucous series of similar notes on one pitch; also soft ga-ga notes when an intruder approaches.
Learn more about this sound collection.