Common Name

Scientific Name


Photo by Jim Parrish
Photo Copyright Jim Parrish

The California gull, Larus californicus, occurs during the breeding season in central Canada, the northwestern United States (particularly along the Columbia and Snake rivers), and in the Rocky Mountains south into Colorado. Most populations migrate to the Pacific Coast of the United States to winter, though some populations, mainly those in Utah, Idaho, and interior Washington, are year-round residents. In Utah, this bird is found primarily in northern counties.

California gulls are found in many wetland habitats, including mudflats, marshes, irrigated fields, and lakes, but they are also commonly found in dumps, cities, and agricultural lands. This bird feeds on insects and occasionally small vertebrates, and it often scavenges at boat docks and dumps. Breeding begins in May. Nests are built colonially on the ground and are constructed of plant material from the surrounding vegetation, with a cup of fine stems and twigs. Because nesting colonies are often large and conspicuous, they are usually located on an island, beyond the reach of predators such as coyotes and racoons. Typically three eggs are laid, and both parents share incubation duties. Eggs hatch after 23 to 27 days. Young leave the nest and can swim after a few days, but are unable to fly for 45 days.


  • Winkler, D. W. 1996. California gull (Larus californicus). Birds of North America 259: 1-28.

  • Baicich, P. J., and C. J. O. Harrison. 1997. A guide to the nests, eggs, and nestlings of North American Birds, Second Ed. Academic Press, San Diego. 347 pp.