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California Gull Larus californicus


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California Gulls
credit: Shengzhi Li /CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Laridae, Gulls and Terns view all from this family

Description ADULT SUMMER Has gray back and upper wings with white trailing edge and black wingtips with small white "windows." Bill is yellow with small red spot on gonys and dark subterminal band; note red orbital ring. ADULT WINTER Similar, but has brown streaking on head and nape, mainly on nape (dark streaking is more extensive on similar age Herring, and extends to throat and chest). JUVENILE Juvenile and first-winter birds have mottled brown plumage, with uniformly dark wingtips and two dark bands on inner upper wing. Bill is dark at first, but dark-tipped pink by first winter. Acquires adult plumage through several successive molts, back and upper wing becoming more uniformly gray. Retains some brown feathers on upper wing coverts, and faint dark band on tail, into third winter.

Dimensions Length: 20-23" (51-58 cm)

Habitat Locally common. Nests colonially, mainly on islands in inland lakes. Mainly coastal outside breeding season, often congregating near regular food sources.

Observation Tips Easy to see along coast in winter months.

Range Plains, Texas, Southwest, Northwest, California, Alaska, Rocky Mountains, Western Canada

Voice Utters kyaoo calls, higher pitched than Herring.

Discussion Medium-sized gull. Compared to Herring, has slimmer body, long wings and legs, and longer, more even-width bill; appreciably larger than Ring-billed, with much longer bill and dark (not yellow) iris in adult birds. Legs are yellow in adults, but pinkish in younger birds. Eye is dark at all times. Takes 3 years to reach adult plumage. Sexes are similar.