Nature Journal
with Photos


Identification Tips for Laughing Gull
(Credit: U. S. Geological Survey)
General Information
- Length: 13 inches Wingspan: 41 inches
- Medium-sized, long-winged gull
- Long bill somewhat droopy towards tip
- Head flat at forehead, giving "mean" look
- Adult plumage reached in third year

Adult alternate:
- Red bill
- Black head
- Thin white crescents above and below eye
- White neck, breast, and belly
- Dark gray back and upperwings
- Pale scapular crescent and tertial crescent
- Dark primaries, usually with no white tips
- Dark primaries blend into gray of upperwings without white division
- White tail

Adult basic:
- Black bill
- White head with faint black streaking on rear part of head
- Dark primaries, usually with small white tips
- White tail

- Black bill
- Entirely warm brown head, neck, back, and upperwings
- Pale edgings to upperwing coverts
- Pale belly
- Dark terminal band on white tail

- First-year bird has gray back, brown upperwing coverts, pale gray head with black streaks on rear head, grayish breast , and white tail with complete black terminal band

- Second-year bird is essentially like adult basic, but often has a remnant of a tail band and does not have white tips to primaries

Similar species:
Bonaparte's, Little, Black-headed and Sabine's Gulls have much different wing patterns, shorter, thinner bills, and have numerous other distinctions (Bonaparte's and Little are much smaller).

Franklin's Gull is extremely similar. Adults in alternate plumage have darker tips to primaries, less extensive dark on underside of primaries and a white bar between gray upperwing and black primaries. Immatures and basic-plumaged adults typically have half-hoods that are much darker than those of Laughing Gulls and include the eye. Other minor plumage differences exist, but all age groups are perhaps best separated by structural features. Franklin's Gulls are smaller, shorter-billed, rounder-headed, and have shorter wings.

Length and wingspan from: Robbins, C.S., Bruun, B., Zim, H.S., (1966). Birds of North America. New York: Western Publishing Company, Inc.
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