Laughing Gull

Leucophaeus atricilla
Laughing Gull specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (16-17 inches) seagull, the Laughing Gull in summer is most easily identified by its dark gray wings with black tips, black head, dark orange legs, and red bill. In winter, this species loses much of the color on its head and bill, becoming dark-billed with a gray smudge on its crown. Young birds are brownish-gray overall, and are often confused with young gulls of other species. Male and female Laughing Gulls are similar to one another in all seasons. The Laughing Gull breeds along the entire Atlantic coast of the United States, along the Gulf coast from Florida to Texas, and in the West Indies. Populations breeding in the northeast are migratory, wintering further south along the coast of the U.S. or in Mexico, Central America, and South America. Populations breeding in warmer areas are generally non-migratory. Laughing Gulls breed on rocky or sandy islands and beaches by lakes, in marshes, and along the coast. Birds breeding in the tropics may nest on mangrove islands. In general, this species utilizes similar kinds of habitats in winter as in summer. Laughing Gulls eat a variety of foods, including crustaceans, fish, carrion, garbage, and, more rarely, bird eggs. Laughing Gulls are most easily seen foraging for food along sandy beaches. In many coastal areas, this is one of the most common “seagulls,” and may be seen foraging for refuse and carrion on the beach, flying over the water and plunging in to catch fish, or floating on the water’s surface while catching fish with its bill. Laughing Gulls are primarily active during the day.

Threat Status: Least Concern