[38-43 cm (15-17 inches) in length]. Plumage variable both seasonally
and by age-class. Breeding season adults with black heads, dark
wing-tips, and white tails. Most confusion regarding this species will
separating them from Franklin’s gulls (which occur mainly in the Gulf
of Mexico). Distinctive laughing call. No confusion should
identification of adult birds in summer plumage as it is the only
black-headed gull likely to be found in marine environments in the
Western North Atlantic.
live approximately 20 years. White breast and
tails. Breeding adults have all black head, winter adults have various
amounts of white on head.
black hoods of breeding adults. Dusky breast and flanks, distinctive
closely related to Franklin’s Gull. Two subspecies are recognized. L.
a. atiricalla breeds in the West Indies and South America,
megalopterus in North America. The latter also winters in
Indies region (band returns from Cuba, but certainly occurs in other
areas as well).
coastal areas, also inland at landfills, fields
and parking lots where food scraps are available. Anchored or moored
boats with passengers who feed the birds and enjoy "Laughing Gull
whitewash." Follows ships and
species, breeding in Atlantic from Maine south to Florida, throughout
the Bahamas and West Indies, Gulf of Mexico, Mexico and northern South
American coast. Winters in coastal areas within its breeding range .
Central American (including Baja peninsula) and South American coasts
and at sea from Carolinas southward. Winters inland in Florida and
Central America. Rare in as a wintering species in Bermuda.
summer restricted to coastal areas, during the winter often occurs in
flocks in open ocean environments.
coastal and beach scavenger. Does not venture far to sea except in
when differences in air and sea surface temperatures provide for extra
lift, allowing them to travel with less energy expenditure. Laughing
Gulls feed of a
wide range of surface organisms and are effective marine and coastal
scavengers. They follow ships and forms feeding flocks around fishing
operations. The species has been reported as long-line by-catch in the
western North Atlantic.
low flat areas with scattered low to dense vegetation. Vegetation
provides some protection from sun and lessens visual contact with
neighboring pairs. Begin breeding at three years of age. Courtship
begins in April, and most eggs are laid by the end of May. Ground nests
are made of grasses and other plant material including Sargassum and
various marine plants. 2-3 brownish spotted eggs. Incubation 22-25
days, fledging at about 60 days. Colonies will move from year
if overly disturbed. Colonies disperse 2-3 weeks after young can fly.
and mid Atlantic states 64,483 pairs (Buckley and Buckley 1984) Southeastern
US 197,873 pairs (Clapp and Buckley 1984) Bahamas
and West Indies 5,000-10,000 pairs (Chardine et al. 2000) Mexico
and Northern South America ca 1,000 pairs (vanHalewyn and Norton 1984)
168,356 to 173,356 pairs.
et al., 2002 report 528,000 to 538,000 breeders for the Americas (and
264,000 to 269,000 pairs in Western Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and West
Indies). This latter number is probably
more accurate as the species has greatly expanded in numbers in the
last few decades, and more seabird inventories have been conducted
since the early 80s when the last published information was made
most of its North American range, populations increasing primarily
because of current methods of waste disposal. At least three times more
common than any other seabird nesting in southeastern United States. In
many areas this gull is detrimental to other seabirds, eating eggs and
young and competing for food and nesting sites. The draft Southeast
regional waterbird plan considers the Laughing Gull a problem species
possibly requiring large scale control to protect other species
vulnerable to its predation. In the West Indies, some populations have
declined as a result of development or egging, while others are
increasing because of subsidized feeding as a result of garbage and
conservation management needed to enhance expanding population. On one
hand some local populations need protecting from egging, introduced
predators and waterfront development. On the other hand, these birds
cause problems for some locally nesting seabirds that are of immediate
conservation concern. In fact, gull control programs may be warranted
specific situations if they are consuming the chicks of seabirds
that are of regional conservation priority.
and management priorities are best set at the country or colony level.
The degree of movement of non-breeding gulls within the region and the
amount of migration into the West Indies by wintering North American
Laughing Gulls is not known. This information is important if
site-by-site management becomes a priority.
should be taken to avoid local situations where the population is
subsidized by garbage disposal and disposal of fisheries by-catch. This
species is one of the suite of commensal species that benefit from
human development (via scavenging) and have a negative multiplicative
affect on the non-human ecological system.
and F. G. Buckley 1984. Seabirds of the North and Middle Atlantic Coast
of the United States: their status and conservation. Pp. 101-133. In J.
P. Croxall, P. G. Evans and R. W. Schreiber (eds). Status and
Conservation of the World’s Seabirds. ICBP Tech. Publ., No. 2. 778 p.
J. 1996. Laughing Gull (Larus
atricilla). In The Birds of North
America, No. 225 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Academy of Natural
Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists’ Union,
J., R. P. Morris, J. F. Parnell and J. Pierce. 2000. Status and
conservation priorities for laughing gulls, gull-billed terns, royal
terns and bridled terns in the West Indies. In E. A. Schreiber and D.
S. Lee (eds) Status and Conservation of West Indian Seabirds. Society
of Caribbean Ornithology, Special Publication Number 1.225 p.
R. B. and P. A. Buckley 1984. Status and conservation of seabirds in
the Southeastern United States. Pp. 135-155. In J. P. Croxall, P. G.
Evans and R. W. Schreiber (eds). Status and Conservation of the World’s
Seabirds. ICBP Tech. Publ., No. 2. 778 p.
J.A. et al. 2002. Waterbird Conservation for the Americas: The North
American Waterbird Conservation Plan, Version I. Waterbird Conservation
for the Americas, Washington, DC. 78 p.
Halewyn, R. and R. Norton. 1984. The status and conservation of
seabirds in the Caribbean. Pp. 169-222. In J. P. Croxall, P. G. Evans
and R. W. Schreiber (eds). Status and Conservation of the World’s
Seabirds. ICBP Tech. Publ., No. 2. 778 p.
Indian Breeding Seabird Atlas by Will
Mackin and David Lee is licensed
under a Creative
Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
License. Based on
work at www.wicbirds.net.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at www.wicbirds.net.
Citation: Lee, D. S., W. A. Mackin. 2009. Laughing Gull. West Indian
Breeding Seabird Atlas
<http://www.wicbirds.net/lagu.html>. Last Updated: _____.
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