LAUGHING GULL – (Leucophaeus atricilla)
The breeding adult has a black head, white under parts and neck, a grey back and wings, which are black at the tips. The tail is white in the adult, but has a black band in juveniles. Sexes are similar. Except for the juveniles, the bill and legs remain dark red to reddish-black. The bird measures approximately 40 cm (16 in.) long.
NAME: The Laughing gull owes its name from its call that sounds like a human laugh. The name ‘Gull’ is of Celtic origin to mean a ‘gull’. The Latin genus name ‘Leucophaeus’ is from ancient Greek and means ‘dusky white’, in reference to the plumage color of this gull. The Latin species name ‘atricilla’ means ‘black tail’, but it would have been more appropriate to call it ‘atricapilla’, for ‘black head’.
HABITAT: Mainly along the coast in bays, salt marshes and beaches, but also inland along rivers, in fields or at garbage dumps.
DIET: Laughing gulls are omnivorous. They will feed on insects, crustaceans, fish, small mammals, berries, handouts from humans and garbage.
NESTING: Laughing gulls are social birds that breed in colonies that can be very large, and gather with other gulls, terns or pelicans.
DISTRIBUTION: The breeding habitat of this species includes marshes on the coastal areas of the eastern and southern USA. Their wintering grounds include Mexico and the northern part of South America.
ON PEI: The laughing gull does not breed on PEI and only a few sightings have been reported in the last century.
CONSERVATION: Laughing gulls used to be hunted for their feathers and their eggs, but its population has well recovered to the point where it is now common, and of ‘least concern’. However the habitat of this species is vulnerable to beach development.