The smallest gull, this species is a rare breeder in North America. In all plumages, note the small, slender black bill, short legs, and slightly rounded wings. Alternate Adult: Note the extensive black hood with no eye crescents. Upperparts are pale gray, underparts white. In flight, the entire upper surface of the wing is pale gray, with a broad white trailing edge. The underside of the wing is very dark gray. The legs are red. Basic Adult: The head is white, with a black cap and black auricular patch. Juvenile: Brownish-black cap, auricular patch, hind neck, wing coverts, tertials and primaries. In flight, shows a bold M pattern on upper surface of wings. Underside of wings pale gray. Tail has a black terminal band. First Cycle Basic: Back and scapulars pale gray. Retains dusky head markings and carpal bar. In flight, shows strong M pattern seen on juvenile. First Cycle Alternate: Head pattern varies from smoky gray crown and nape to nearly complete black hood. Second Cycle Basic: Similar to basic adult, but retains some black on the primaries. Underside of wings medium gray. Second Cycle Alternate: Shows complete black hood. Black on primaries distinguishes this plumage from adult.
Length: 28 (cm) Wingspan: 69 (cm)
Nests in freshwater marshes. Winters along coast, large rivers and lakes, and offshore.
Often associates with other small gulls (particularly Bonaparte's) and terns.
Takes insects, small fish, and aquatic invertebrates.
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