Bird GuideGulls and TernsYellow-footed Gull

At a Glance

Ignored for years, passed off as a local race of Western Gull, the Yellow-footed Gull is actually a very distinct species. It nests only in the Gulf of California, that long narrow arm of sea between Baja and the Mexican mainland. Every summer, after nesting, many Yellow-footed Gulls move north across the desert to the landlocked Salton Sea in southern California.
Gull-like Birds, Gulls and Terns
Low Concern
Coasts and Shorelines, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers, Saltwater Wetlands
Direct Flight, Soaring

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Most are probably permanent residents within Gulf of California. Some (up to several hundred) move north to Salton Sea, California, after nesting season. Main arrival typically late June, with peak numbers in August; small numbers usually remain through winter.


21-23" (53-58 cm). Very much like Western Gull, but bill even thicker; legs of adults bright yellow. Immatures dingy brown, with pinkish legs at first. Best known by range (Western Gull is very seldom found at Salton Sea).
About the size of a Mallard or Herring Gull
Black, Gray, Pink, Red, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Pointed, Tapered
Tail Shape
Rounded, Short, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

Similar to calls of Western Gull, but deeper.
Call Pattern
Call Type
Raucous, Scream


In U.S., barren shoreline of Salton Sea. Visitors to Salton Sea concentrate on west side, mostly on open shoreline, sometimes foraging in flooded fields nearby. In Gulf of California, found around islands and shoreline, sometimes well out to sea but almost never inland.



Usually 3. Olive to buff, marked with dark brown. Incubation is probably by both parents.


Probably fed by both parents. Probably able to fly at about 6-7 weeks after hatching.

Feeding Behavior

Feeding behavior not well known. Forages while walking, wading, or swimming, sometimes plunging into water in flight.


Fish, other marine life. Diet poorly known. On Gulf of California, probably includes fish, crabs, shrimp, clams, wide variety of other sea creatures. Also takes eggs and young of other birds. Will eat carrion, and scavenges around dumps and docks for scraps and refuse.


Breeding behavior not well known, probably similar to that of Western Gull. Nests in colonies, with different arrangement from those of Western Gull: nests are arranged in a line along beach just above the reach of the highest tides, and each pair may defend a narrow territory from the nest down to the water. Nest site is on ground, on beach or at base of cliffs, a short distance above the high-tide line. Nest is a shallow depression, lined with seaweed, grass, or other plant material.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Numbers probably stable at the moment. Overfishing and pollution of the Gulf of California could cause problems for this species and other seabirds nesting there.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Yellow-footed Gull. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Yellow-footed 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.