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.

DC Information

Fairly common summer resident near water, breeding late May to early August. The head is black in spring and summer adults, but streaked with white or gray in the fall and winter. Young birds are ashy brown above instead of pearly gray as the adults are. Sexes are alike.

Specimen Information

This is the record for the adult bird on the left.
Date:  5/17/1892
Collected By:  Edward J Brown
Locality:  Cobbs Island, VA
Sex:  Female
Catalog ID:  220282
This is the record for the immature bird on the right.
Date:  8/5/1901
Collected By:  Biol Survey/Frederick C Lincoln
Locality:  Hains Point, DC
Sex:  Female im
Catalog ID:  310606

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC58470 Leucophaeus atricilla (Laughing Gull)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC56915 Leucophaeus atricilla (Laughing Gull)