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California Gull - BirdForum Opus

Adult in breeding plumage
Photo © by Bob Sheldon
Salton Sea State Recreation Area, California, USA, 25 May 2007
Larus californicus


First Summer (2cy)
Photo © by Bob Sheldon
Goleta Beach County Park, California, USA, May 2007

51–58 cm (20-22¾ in)
A medium sized white-headed gull, in between Ring-billed Gull and Herring Gull with darker grey back, yellow legs, dark eye, and red and black marks on slightly longer bill than Ring-billed. Adults are white-headed during breeding season, but have their head heavily mottled in non-breeding plumage. This is a four-year gull with the first cycle mostly dark with a pink-based bicolored bill (all dark in fresh juveniles) and a mantle of mixed gray and dusky (dark centered with pale fringes in fresh juveniles). The second cycle is mostly white but with brown mottled wing coverts contrasting with a medium gray mantle. Third cycle is similar to adult but has dusky spotting on the otherwise white tail and brownish wash on the wing-coverts.

Similar Species

Ring-billed Gull is smaller with lighter back, pale eye, and broad black ring on bill. 1st winter Ring-billed similar to 2nd winter California but back much lighter grey, and pink legs (California 2nd winter have blueish legs). Herring Gull is much larger Adult similar but with larger bill with red spot but no ring, pink legs, pale eye, more extensive streaking on neck.


Northern interior populations are larger with paler gray mantle, more closely resembling Herring Gull except for California's dark eyes and yellowish legs.


Adult in winter plumage
Photo © by janruss
Cape Meares, Oregon, 13 October 2005

Breeds in the great plains and rocky mountain regions of the United States and Canada. Winters along the pacific coast from British Columbia south to Mexico. Rare but regular vagrant to Texas. Casual vagrant to eastern United States. Accidental vagrant to Alaska, Yukon Territory and Japan.



This is a polytypic species consisting of two subspecies:

  • L. c. californicus:
  • L. c. albertaensis:


Photo © by Joseph Morlan
Half Moon Bay, California, USA 29 July 2020

Breeds in open habitats in the arid interior, usually on low rocky islands in both freshwater and saline lakes as well as salt ponds locally along the coast. in winter uses every habitat from the waters at edge of continental shelf to beaches and rocky coasts, mudflats, coastal estuaries, and deltas of rivers and streams.



They nest in a shallow depression on the ground lined with vegetation and feathers. The clutch consists of 2-3 eggs which are tended both parents.


Their diet includes insects, fish and eggs. They also scavenge in rubbish dumps.


The long call is higher-pitched and harsher than that of Herring Gull. Includes a gradually descending and shortening series of kyow notes.


Moves to the Pacific Coast from interior breeding sites.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Winkler, D. W. (2020). California Gull (Larus californicus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole and F. B. Gill, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.calgul.01
  3. Burger, J., Gochfeld, M., Kirwan, G.M. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). California Gull (Larus californicus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/53973 on 19 March 2020).
  4. Howell, S.N.G. & Dunn, J.L. (2007) Gulls of the Americas. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.
  5. Malling Olsen, K. & Larsson, H. (2003) Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America. Christopher Helm, London.
  6. Wikipedia contributors. (2020, January 26). California gull. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 07:26, March 19, 2020, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=California_gull&oldid=937628106

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External Links

GSearch checked for 2020 platform.