A medium-sized, long-winged four-year gull of Western North America. There are two subspecies, the more northerly and interior breeding "albertaensis," which is larger and tends to be paler above as an adult and the more southerly and coastal breeding "californicus," which averages smaller and darker above. On their wintering grounds, both subspecies are likely to be seen together, but separating them in the field is at best problematic. Size extremes from the largest male "albertaensis" to the smallest female "californicus" can be startling and confusing. Plumage and bill patterns are highly variable at every age class, particular in hatch-year birds. Alternate adult has medium-gray mantle, black wingtips, dark eye, yellow to grayish-green legs, white underparts and head, and yellow bill with red-and-black spot at the tip. Note that during the breeding season, the black on the bill can be very minimal and sometimes entirely absent. Basic adult is like alternate adult, but has brown streaks on nape and head and the bill and leg color are duller. Third-year birds much like an adult, but have black ring on yellow bill. Second-year birds have brown mottling on wings and sides, brownish-black wingtips, medium-gray mantle, bluish legs, and grayish bill with black tip. First-year birds are heavily patterned, with the overall color tone and brightness being highly variable. Mantle, scapular, and covert feathers have dusky-brown to near black centers with with broad pale edges that vary from grayish white to warm cinnamon-buff on some birds. Some individuals show a much warmer cinnamon tone overall and bleaching gives others a creamier look by late August and early September. The wingtips are mostly blackish, legs are pink, and the face and throat tend paler. Bill is initially black, but quickly transitions to mostly pink with black tip by late fall. In flight, note extensive black wingtips. Compare especially Ring-billed, Mew, and young Herring Gulls.
Length: 53 (cm) Wingspan: 137 (cm)
Hoarse, scratchy calls.
Breeds on inland lakes; winters in coastal areas, wet fields.
Breeds colonially. Nest is a mat of vegetation on the ground. In winter, often flocks with other gulls.
Forages on water or land. Eats a wide variety of insects, small animals, fish, carrion, and human scraps.
A minority of fresh juveniles are remarkably pale-breasted and "ginger-colored," and stand out in a flock.
Citation: Personal Experience. I observe this regularly, highly confident.
Expanded Life History
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|Activity||Date & Time|
|Steven Mauvais added California Gull to their Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge smart list||9/20/2014 at 10:57AM|
|Keith K. added California Gull to their Sauvie Island smart list||2/26/2012 at 7:37PM|
|Dan Mitchell added California Gull to their Lincoln City, Oregon smart list||8/28/2011 at 7:25PM|
|David Fix added a note to California Gull Notes||7/09/2011 at 7:44PM|