Blog Archive: Gulls

Birdorable Gray-hooded Gull

2015 Bonanza Bird #12: Grey-hooded Gull

December 12th, 2015 in Birdorable Bonanza 2015, Gulls, New Birds 1 comment

Our Birdorable Bonanza: 2015 Advent Edition continues today with a gull found on two continents: the Gray-hooded Gull!

Birdorable Grey-hooded Gull

The Gray-hooded Gull, also known as the Grey-headed Gull, is a small species of gull found across parts of South America and sub-Saharan Africa. These birds breed in both coastal areas as well as around inland freshwater bodies.

Gray-hooded Gulls take two to three years to reach full maturity and adult plumage. Breeding adult birds are grey around the face with a faint darker outline. Wings appear grey with black primary feathers, while the underparts and neck are white.

In 2011 a vagrant Gray-hooded Gull was found by birders on Coney Island in New York. That bird may be the northernmost recorded bird of its species. You can read about this interesting sighting on Amar Ayyash's North American Birding article The Coney Island Gray-hooded Gull.

Grey-headed gull
Grey-headed gull by Bob Adams (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Grey-headed Gull  (Chroicocephalus cirrocephalus)
Grey-headed gull by Ian White (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The Gray-hooded Gull is our 628th Birdorable bird. Be sure to check out our collection of apparel and gifts featuring the Birdorable Gray-hooded Gull!

Our Bonanza continues tomorrow with an Old World pied flycatcher. Can you guess tomorrow's species?

Birdorable Laughing Gull

Some Gull Humor

February 7th, 2015 in Funny, Gulls No comments

This week, we're celebrating the gulls of the world!
Today we're wrapping up the week with a little bit of gull humor!

What do you call a gull when it flies over a bay?

A bagel! (bay-gull)

Nelson's Gull
"Haha! That's funny! Tell another!" (photo by Amy Evenstad)
 

What do you call a gull that works online?

An eagle! (e-gull)

Glaucous Gull
"Wait, what? I don't get it." (photo by Amy Evenstad)
 

What did the gull say to the cat when its alarm clock went off?

"Kittiwake!" (kitty wake)

Laughing Gull
"Grooooaaaan!" (photo by Amy Evenstad)
 

Do you know any gull jokes? Let us know in the comments.

Birdorable Sabine's Gull

Cool Facts about Gulls: Frequently Asked Questions

February 6th, 2015 in Gulls, Fun Facts 1 comment

We're celebrating the world's gulls! Today we are sharing some FAQs about gulls.

Why do gulls stand on one leg?
Gulls aren't the only birds that stand on one leg. Many species exhibit this behavior, and the reason usually has to do with regulating body temperature. Feathers on a bird's body help to keep it warm in cold temperatures, but when the legs are unfeathered, as in gulls, the bird can lose precious body heat through the exposed skin. Keeping one leg tucked under body feathers while standing on the other helps the bird to keep warm.

Birdorable Ring-billed Gull standing on one leg

Why are gull wingtips often black or dark?
Melanin is a natural pigment found in animals; it occurs in mammals, birds, reptiles, and other organisims. However, melanin isn't just about color. Melanin can also strengthen. The melanin in the wingtips of a bird helps to protect the feathers from wear and tear. And it also makes them black. Besides gulls, many raptor species have black wingtips, and some otherwise all-white birds like White Ibises, Snow Geese, American White Pelicans, and Wood Storks also have black wingtips.

Why do gulls stamp their feet?
It is thought that gulls tap their feet to imitate falling rain. The sensation of incoming rain "tricks" earthworms or other subterranean creatures to come to the surface to avoid drowning. When the worms reach the surface, they become an easy meal for the clever gull. This kind of "worm stomping" is the original "rain dance"!

What is the difference between a gull and a seagull?
Gull is the common name given to seabirds in the family Laridae. Often these birds are referred to as seagulls, but the term is not used by most biologists or ornithologists. The most common gull in Australia, the Silver Gull, is often called "seagull" by locals. But in taxonomical terms, there is no such bird as a seagull.

Do gulls have webbed feet?
Yes, gulls have webbed feet. Though some gulls live inland and may spend a lot of time away from large bodies of water, many gulls spend much of their time in and around water. Having webbed feet helps them maneuver efficiently in the water. However, this adaptation does limit their ability to carry items with their feet.

Webbed feet on a gull

What is special about gull jaws?
Gulls are opportunistic feeders, meaning they are able to take advantage of a huge variety of food items. They may hunt for live prey, they might steal food from others, or they might scavange scraps from garbage dumps or dead animals (carrion). Something that helps them take the most advantage of eating opportunities is the fact that they have unhinging jaws. This gives them the ability to consume very large items.

What is the collective noun for gull?
A collective noun is used to name a group of something. A group of birds is commonly known as a flock. A group of crows is a murder, a group of finches is a charm, and a group of geese is a gaggle. What about gulls? A group of gulls is known as a colony.

Do you have any other questions? Let us know in the comments below or go to our Meet the Birds area and learn about each of our Birdorable gulls. And don't forget to check out our cute gull gifts. Here are some samples below.

Birdorable Heermann's Gull

Gull Week Fun: Coloring Pages

February 5th, 2015 in Coloring Pages, Gulls No comments

We're celebrating the gulls of the world this week! These social, intelligent birds can be found all over the world. Today we're sharing some fun gull coloring pages!

Gulls tend to have a lot of black, white, and grey in their plumage. The breeding plumage Ross's Gull, for example, is pale grey above and white below. They also develop a pink wash to the breast that is absent other parts of the year. Their feet and legs are red! Heermann's Gull has a different look from other gulls. The body is grey with black-to-grey wings and a red bill with a black tip. We've also included a coloring page of the famous Lesser Black-backed Gull Pierre, who is wearing his distinctive green color band.

Direct links to the coloring pages:

Find more coloring pages for other species on our free coloring page downloads. And be sure to check out the color schemes for these and all of our birds by visiting the Meet the Birds section of our site.

Birdorable Lesser Black-backed Gull

Pierre the Lesser Black-backed Gull

February 4th, 2015 in Gulls 1 comment

We're celebrating the world's gulls this week! Join us as we highlight these social and intelligent birds. Today we'd like to tell you about a special individual bird.

Birdorable Lesser Black-backed Gull in Florida

Lesser Black-backed Gulls generally breed across northern parts of Europe and Asia. In the winter they move down across Europe and into parts of Africa, the Middle East, and southeast Asia. A portion of the population is also found wintering along the Atlantic coast of North America each year.

One exception to the rules is a particular Lesser Black-backed Gull who was first seen at a nest site on Appledore Island in Maine back in the spring of 2007. The Lesser Black-backed Gull (LBBG) was apparently tending a nest with a Herring Gull. This discovery was only the second time a LBBG was known to breed in North America, and a first record for the Atlantic coast.

During the following spring, both the LBBG and its Herring Gull mate were banded by Dr. Julie Ellis's scientific study team. The Lesser Black-backed Gull was given a green color band with the code F05. The pair returned to the nesting area again in 2009, when observation of the pair together revealed the LBBG to be a male bird.

In January of 2009, F05 was discovered wintering on the Atlantic coast of Florida in Daytona Beach Shores, which is not far from Birdorable Headquarters. This location is known for having the largest winter gathering of gulls in North America. Picking out F05 couldn't have been an easy task!

Gulls at Frank Rendon Park
Lots of gulls on the beach at Daytona Beach Shores, Florida (photo by Amy Evenstad)

F05, also sometimes known by the name "Pierre", continued to be observed in Daytona Beach Shores the following winters. However, during the 2012 breeding season, F05 was not found at his normal nesting grounds. Gulls tend to be faithful to their nesting sites, so it was presumed that F05 had perhaps died. But the old gull was again found to be wintering in Daytona Beach Shores during the winter of 2012-2013. Where he spent the summer is a mystery. However, F05 returned to Appledore in the spring of 2014.

Lesser Black-backed Gull
F05 in February 2013 (photo by Amy Evenstad)

This winter, F05 is again spending his time in Daytona Beach Shores. Time will tell if he again returns to Appledore in the spring for another nesting season. Lesser Black-backed Gulls start breeding at age four. Since he was first seen as an adult in 2007, F05 must be at least 12 years old as of the coming spring.

F05 returns!
F05 in January 2015 (photo by Amy Evenstad)
Birdorable Ross's Gull

Gulls Named For People

February 3rd, 2015 in Gulls No comments

This week, we're celebrating the gulls of the world! Join us as we highlight these social and intelligent birds. Today we're talking about how some gulls got their common names.

Of the approximately 55 recognized species of gull in the world, at least 12 of them take their common name from an historical figure. So just what does it take for a person to have a gull named after him?

Audouin's Gull is found around the Mediterranean and northwestern Africa. The species was named for the French naturalist Jean Victoire Audouin. Besides birds, Audouin also studied insects, reptiles, and mollusks. In addition to the gull, he had a fungus, Microsporum audouinii, named after him.

Belcher's Gull, also known as the Band-tailed Gull, is found on the Pacific side of South America. This species was named for the British naval officer and explorer Admiral Sir Edward Belcher. The Admiral traveled to and surveyed the habitat of his future namesake gull early in his career.

Charles Lucien Bonaparte with Birdorable Bonapart's gull

Bonaparte's Gull is a small species of gull found across parts of North America. The gull was named for the French biologist and ornithologist Charles Lucien Jules Laurent Bonaparte. The scientist was the nephew of Emperor Napoleon. On his voyage to the United States in the 1820s, he discovered the first specimen of what would come to be called Wilson's Storm Petrel.

John Franklin with Birdorable Franklin's Gull

Franklin's Gull is a small "black-headed" gull that breeds across parts of North America and winters in the Caribbean and South America. It was named for the British Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin. The first specimen of the Franklin's Gull was collected on his 1823 expedition to the Arctic.

Hartlaub's Gull, also known as the King Gull, is found along the Atlantic coast of southern Africa. The bird was named for the German physician and ornithologist Karel Johnan Gustav Hartlaub. Hartlaub's Bustard and Hartlaub's Duck are also named for this German scientist.

Heermann's Gull is found on the Pacific coast of North America. This striking species was named after the American explorer and naturalist Adolphus Lewis Heermann. During a three-year expedition to the west coast of North America in the 1840s, Heermann collected over 1200 bird study skins.

Heuglin's Gull is a migratory species that breeds across tundra in Russia and elsewhere and winters in Southwest Asia, India, and Africa. The gull was named for German explorer and ornithologist Theodor von Heuglin. Heuglin's Wheatear is also named for the German adventurer.

Kumlien's Gull is a subspecies of the Thayer's Gull. The name comes from Swedish-American ornithologist, naturalist, and taxidermist Thure Kumlien. Kumlien settled in Milwaukee after moving to the United States and made significant contributions to the knowledge of Wisconsin's natural history. Kumlien was also a known authority on birds' nests and an early member of the American Ornithologits's Union.

Nelson's Gull isn't a species, but the result of the hybridization between a Herring Gull and a Glaucous Gull. The informal name given to this offspring was named for the American naturalist Edward William Nelson, who was the first to describe the bird.

Olrog's Gull is found along the Atlantic coast in parts of South America. This gull was named for the Swedish-Argentine biologist Claes C. Olrog, who also has his name on the Olrog's Cinclodes (a type of songbird), Olrog's Chaco Mouse, and Olrog's Four-eyed Opossum.

Pallas's Gull, also known as the Great Black-headed Gull, is a large species that breeds in parts of Russia and Mongolia. The species was named for the German zoologist and botanist Peter Simon Pallas. He described many species for science and has several others named after him, including Pallas's Cat, Pallas's Cormorant, and Pallas's Rosefinch.

James Clark Ross with Birdorable Ross's Gull

Ross's Gull is a small species that breeds in the high Arctic and Siberia. The gull was named for the British naval officer and explorer James Clark Ross. The Ross Seal, a moon crater, and the James Ross Strait are just a few of the other honorary names given in tribute of James Clark Ross.

General Sir Edward Sabine with Birdorable Sabine's Gull

Sabine's Gull is a small species that breeds in the Arctic. It is also called the Fork-tailed Gull or the Xeme. The species was named for the Irish scientist Sir Edward Sabine. Sabine had a wide range of interests and is known for his research on the magnetic field of the Earth as well as his study of Greenland's birds. The Sabine's Puffback, a songbird, and the Sabine's Spinetail, a swift, are both also named for the scientist.

Saunders's Gull, also known as the Chinese Black-headed Gull, is an Asian species of gull. The bird was named for the British ornithologist Howard Saunders. The Saunders's Tern is also named after the scientist. Before developing a keen interest in gulls and terns, Saunders studied the birds of Spain.

Thayer's Gull is a North American species. It was named for the amateur ornothologist John Eliot Thayer. Thayer brought early attention to the problems native species suffer when non-native predators are introduced. Thayer's Gull was first collected during an expedition to Alaska in 1913.