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Laughing Gull

Leucophaeus atricilla

Length: 16 inches Wingspan: 40 inches Seasonality: Rare Visitor
ID Keys: Black head, white neck and underparts, dark gray back, black wingtips.

Laughing Gull - Leucophaeus atricillaNamed for its well-known laughing call, the Laughing Gull is a common sight (and sound) of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States.  They have the unusual habit of stealing food from Brown Pelicans, landing on their heads and stealing fish from the Pelican's large pouch.  Rarely seen inland, the Laughing Gull is a rare visitor to the state.

Habitat: Generally only found near coastal regions, only rarely venturing very far inland except in Florida and around the Salton Sea.   On coasts, primarily found around beaches and salt marshes. 

Diet: Small fish, insects, crustaceans, earthworms, eggs and young birds, refuse.

Behavior: Forages by walking, wading, or swimming, and occasionally by plunge-diving or dipping from the surface in flight.

Breeding: Non-breeder in South Dakota

Song: Laughing Gull Song

Migration: Summers along Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.  Populations along northern part of Atlantic Coast move south in the fall, while southern U.S. populations are generally permanent residents.  A true coastal bird that is only very rarely seen inland.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Laughing Gull sightings

Similar Species: Franklin's Gull, Bonaparte's Gull.  See Identification Tips

Conservation Status: Numbers were seriously depleted during the 19th century, but recovered quickly and are now stable.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Laughing Gull

2) Audubon Guide - Laughing Gull

3) BirdWeb - Laughing Gull

Photo Information: June 22nd, 2005 -- Chincoteague, Virginia -- Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Laughing Gull photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Laughing Gull - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Extremely rare visitor, with only a handful of records in the state.

Additional Laughing Gull Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Laughing Gull - Leucophaeus atricillaLaughing Gull - Leucophaeus atricillaLaughing Gull - Leucophaeus atricilla