As a juvenile, the Laughing Gull has a complete tail band, grey wash on the nape, dark brown wings, and a brown head and body. During its first winter, the Laughing Gull acquires a slate grey color on its back and sides, but keeps all other characteristics. A second summer bird has a partial hood and some spotting on the tail. As it approaches its second winter, the Laughing Gull looks similar to the second summer bird, except that it lacks a hood, and has grey wash on the sides of its breast. During breeding, the Laughing Gulls’ plumage has a black hood, white under-parts, and slate grey wings with black outer primaries.
Laughing Gulls prefer nesting on barrier beaches and estuarine islands with moderate to dense vegetation.
The Laughing Gull is a coastal bird found from Nova Scotia to Venezuela. Except around the Salton Sea, the Laughing Gull is rarely found inland. It also ranges from southeastern California to western Mexico, and winters as far north as southern United States to Venezuela.
The Laughing Gull has a highly varied diet. It is a carnivore as well as a scavenger. In the wild, it will eat insects, fish, shellfish, and crabs. They can get their food from the water while they are airborne by either skimming the surface or diving. The Laughing Gull is not the most efficient fisherman, and often steals food from pelicans or terns after they have made a catch. The Laughing Gull also gets food from man-made sources such as garbage, sewage, refuse from fishing boats, and anything tossed to them by humans.
This species has a large range, with an estimated global extent of occurrence of 400,000 km2. It has a large global population estimated to be 810,000-840,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e., declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]
The Laughing Gull is a colonial breeder that may nest with other gulls or terns. Nests are found primarily along coastal bays, salt marshes, and estuaries. Sometimes they can be found near agricultural and industrial areas. Nests are five centimeters high and eight centimeters wide, and are constructed of sticks and grass. Laughing Gulls have a typical clutch consisting of one to three olive-brown eggs with dark brown spots. The length of incubation is 20 days, and the Laughing Gull takes 35 days to fledge. The Laughing Gull only has one brood per breeding season.
Post breeding dispersal North, followed by movement South. Those breeding in Florida and West Indies largely resident, but Northern birds migrate as far as South America. In autumn most ringing recoveries are between Cape Cod and North Carolina, but by February most birds are in Central and South America. Most ringed birds recovered as adults were within 50 km (but usually North of) natal colony. Winters from Mexico to South Peru, and from north Carolina through Caribbean to Brazil (Amazon). First recorded in Chile in 1990´s. Vagrant to Pacific Is, including Hawaii and Galapagos, and regularly to Europe.
- spanwidth min.: 102 cm
- spanwidth max.: 107 cm
- size min.: 38 cm
- size max.: 43 cm
- incubation min.: 19 days
- incubation max.: 21 days
- fledging min.: 33 days
- fledging max.: 36 days
- broods 1
- eggs min.: 1
- eggs max.: 3
- Conservation Status
- Leucophaeus atricilla atricilla
- West Indies to n Venezuelan islands
- Leucophaeus atricilla megalopterus
- coastal se Canada, e and s USA to e Central America, sw USA, w Mexico
- Leucophaeus atricilla
- NA, LA widespread coasts