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2012-01-11
Utah State Bird – California Gull


The California Gull Larus californicus is a medium-sized gull and is the state bird of Utah. The habitat is lakes and marshes in the interior of western North America. They are migratory, most moving to the Pacific coast in winter. It is only then that this bird is regularly found in western California.

Description

The California Gull has the typical 'gull-like' appearance' slate-gray back and wings, white head and body, and black wingtips with white spots. The black on the wingtips is more extensive than that of other gulls. The California Gull's eye is dark, and its legs are greenish-yellow. The beak is yellow with red and black marks. Juveniles are, to varying degrees, mottled brown and white, mixed with the adult plumage, with pink legs and beak.

Call

The call is a scratchy, hoarse series of "aow" and "uh-uh-uh" notes.

Food

In Washington, California Gulls feed in agricultural lands, cities, and wetlands near their nesting areas. In agricultural areas in this state, they feed primarily on small rodents. Insects, fish, eggs, and garbage are also part of the diet of this opportunistic feeder.

Breeding

California Gulls begin breeding at the age of four. They are colony nesters, sometimes in mixed colonies with Ring-billed or Herring Gulls, although they don't typically hybridize with either of those species. The colonies are usually large and are often on an island. Nests are located on the ground, and may be quite close together. The birds form monogamous pair bonds for the duration of the breeding season and may re-pair in succeeding seasons. However, they often pair with different birds, even when both members of a former pair are still alive. Both help build the nest, a shallow scrape in the ground lined with weeds, bones, feathers, and other debris. Clutches are usually 2-3 eggs, and nests with more than 3 eggs are attributed to multiple females. Both parents help incubate the eggs for about 3½ weeks. The young leave the nest after a few days, but stay nearby, fed regurgitated food by their parents until they can fly at the age of about 6½ weeks.

Conservation Status – Least Concern

In recent decades this species has begun to breed in the southern portion of San Francisco Bay, where it did not historically breed, and has undergone exponential population growth. These California Gulls now inhabit large, remote salt-production ponds and levees and have a very large food source provided by nearby landfills. The South Bay California Gull population has grown from less than 1,000 breeding birds in 1982 to over 33,000 in 2006.

Birdwatching

In winter, California Gulls can be found all along the coastline, and also well offshore. It is common from the end of March to early November in Washington. Breeders can be found in the Columbia Basin and along the Columbia River in Klickitat County.

Utah Hotspots

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

 

Fish Springs National Wildlife Refuge

Ouray National Wildlife Refuge

USA Hemispheric Reserve.

Layton Wetlands

Matheson Preserve

 


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