|Conservation status||Seriously depleted by human persecution during late 19th century, but has made strong comeback. Population in 1990 estimated at 3 to 4 million and probably still increasing. Has benefitted from availability of food provided by garbage dumps and farming practices. High populations may have negative impact on nesting Common Terns and other birds.|
|Family||Gulls and Terns|
|Habitat||Lakes, bays, coasts, piers, dumps, plowed fields. Associated with water at all seasons, although it does much of its feeding on land. Favors fresh water as much as salt water, but often common along coast, especially at harbors and estuaries; rarely any distance offshore. Common around cities, docks, farm fields, landfills, other human-altered habitats.|
Opportunistic. Wide variety of foraging behaviors while walking, wading, swimming, flying. May steal food from other birds. Often scavenges in garbage dumps and other places where food scraps may have been tossed out.
2-4, sometimes 1-8. Gray to olive, blotched with brown. (Clutches of more than 4 eggs result from more than one female. Sometimes two females form "pair" and share nest.) Incubation by both sexes, 23-28 days. Young: Both parents bring food for young, and brood them while they are small. Young may wander out of nest by 2nd day, but remain in immediate area. Young capable of flight about 5 weeks after hatching, become independent 5-10 days later.
Both parents bring food for young, and brood them while they are small. Young may wander out of nest by 2nd day, but remain in immediate area. Young capable of flight about 5 weeks after hatching, become independent 5-10 days later.
Omnivorous. Diet varies with location and season, but major items include insects, fish, earthworms, grain, rodents, and refuse. Forages in freshly plowed fields for grubs and earthworms.
Breeds in colonies, sometimes associated with California or Herring gulls. In courtship, both birds stretch upright and alternately face toward and away from each other; male feeds female. Nest site is on ground near water in area with sparse plant growth. Nest (built by both sexes) is shallow cup of grasses, twigs, moss.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
Download Our Bird Guide App
Migrates in flocks, often following coastlines or major river systems. Tends to fly higher when migrating over land. Not as hardy as Herring Gull, tends to move farther south in winter.
- 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 CallsLoud, raucous mewing cry, like that of Herring Gull but higher pitched.
Learn more about this sound collection.