The California Gull is found in the western half of North America. This medium-sized gull is the state bird of Utah. The California Gull has an interesting history in the state, and is memorialized with a Seagull Monument in Salt Lake City. The monument recognizes the Mormons' "miracle of the gulls."
[California Gulls are] often credited by Latter-day Saints ("Mormons") for saving the Mormon pioneers' first harvest in Utah. According to Mormon folklore, seagulls miraculously saved the 1848 crops by eating thousands of insects that were devouring their fields. The traditional story is that the seagulls annihilated the insects, ensuring the survival of some 4,000 Mormons who had traveled to Utah. For this reason, Seagull Monument was erected and the California gull is the state bird of Utah.
If you think our Birdorable birds are cute as adults, what about when they are babies? Below are some baby photos (shared via Flickr) of the Herring Gull. Herring Gulls lay their eggs in scrape on the ground, which may or may not be lined with vegetation, refuse, or other materials. Baby gulls are semi-precocial, able to walk and leave the nest after just one day.
Herring Gull Chick by foxypar4
gull_chicks_2705080384 by Everything is Permuted
Herring Gull Chicks (Larus argentatus) at Bempton Cliffs by Steve Greaves
Have you ever seen a Heermann's Gull? These birds live on the west coast of the United States and Mexico. There are about 150,000 pairs of them and 95% of these nest on the island of Isla Rasa off Baja California. Audubon calls it one of North America's most beautiful gulls. Among other gulls in this area, Heermann's Gulls are easy to identify: breeding adults are dark gray above and light gray below, they have a white head and bright red bill with black tip. They are about the same size as a Ring-billed Gull. Isla Rasa is included in the Islas del Golfo California Biosphere Reserve. Because so many of these birds nest in one place, the entire species is vulnerable to disturbances there, which include harvesting of eggs by fishermen, industrial development and predation by introduced mammals.
An Ivory Gull has been seen around Cape May recently. These birds usually only hang around in the arctic, so this is a rare visitor for New Jersey. We wish all Ivory Gull twitchers the best of luck this weekend! Here's a souvenir for when you get back. ;)
Here are some photos of the (actual) bird ... what a beauty!
This week we've added another cute bird to Birdorable: the Black-legged Kittiwake. The above photo of cliffs in Ireland shows an adult Kittiwake on the left and a juvenile on the right. Juvenile individuals have black markings on the wings, neck and head. There are actually two races of Black-legged Kittiwake: one in the North Atlantic ocean and another in the North Pacific ocean.
The first one, which is common throughout Europe and the east coast of North America, has only three normal toes. Hence its latin name Rissa tridactyla, which means "three-toed". Its hind toe is reduced to a tiny bump. Kittiwakes spend most of their lives out at sea and come ashore only to breed. They actually seldom walk, so its legs are much shorter than those of other gulls. And who needs a hind toe if you hardly ever walk, right?
We often saw Black-legged Kittiwakes on the North Sea coast when we lived in the Netherlands and I always thought they were particularly cute. Here's a juvenile that we saw flying around at IJmuiden, a coastal town west of Amsterdam:
Kittiwakes breed in large colonies on rocky cliffs and is very noisy on the breeding ground, as is evident from the video below. They are capable of utilizing the sheerest of vertical cliffs as their nesting site.
The Birdorable Kittiwake is available on t-shirts and other apparel. This is our totally cute version of the Black-legged Kittiwake!