Utah’s state bird is is commemorated as the seagull,
more accurately the the California Gull. Known in Utah for having saved the pioneers from the Mormon cricket invasion of 1848 and subsequent years,
gulls hold a hallowed place in local history.
Seagull is a generic term referring to gulls of all types. Gulls we are familiar with range from the small 11-inch Bonaparte’s gull with a 32-inch
wingspan to the 20-inch Herring gull with a 55-inch wingspan. They are white, grey and some have black heads. Young go through phases giving them
different appearances as they mature over two to four years depending upon the species.
Many Gulls migrate to parts of Utah and some pass through in their migration to more northern regions. Ring-billed gulls are here during the fall,
winter, and spring.
The occasional Herring or Thayer’s gull may visit us in winter. A few black-headed Bonaparte’s gulls pass through reliably in spring and fall
during migration. Upon rare occasions, we are even visited by Herrman’s, Western, Glaucous, Glaucous-winged, Mew, yellow-footed , Sabine’s, Iceland, and lesser
In spring, the California gulls and the much smaller and black-headed Franklin’s gulls return to nest. They migrate from southern states or the
pacific coast and raise their young locally on islands in fresh and salt water.
Gulls clean up. They frequent garbage dumps, and irrigated, plowed or manure-covered fields. These carnivores eat insects, worms, crustaceans, fish and
the occasional french fry in a parking lot. Opportunistic, they watch and raid unprotected nests of other birds, eating eggs and young. Sometimes flying singly,
they are more often found in flocks. In flocks they defend against predators by harassment and intimidation.
Thayer’s and Herring gulls have been known to use tools. They have been seen dropping shellfish on asphalt or concrete roads to crack them open and
eat the contents.
At the store, take a moment to think about our state bird. In the dump, and in waterways, gulls can become entrapped in six-pack rings. Do your part
to prevent this by cutting up these plastic rings before disposing of them. Or better yet, buy cans loose or in boxes instead of rings.
Photos: Courtesy and © copyright 2003 Jack Binch, as found on www.Utahbirds.org
Text: Bridgerland Audubon Society: Lyle Bingham and Dick Hurren
Utah Symbols – California gull
California gull Larus californicus
Franklin’s gull Larus pipixcan
Thayer’s gull Larus thayeri
Ring-billed gull Larus delawarensis
Bridgerland Audubon Checklist of Birds, http://www.bridgerlandaudubon.org/checklist.htm
Handbook of the Birds of the World 3: 609. Lynx Edicions. Larus thayeri (TSN 176828). Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved on 10 March 2006.
Sibley, David Allen. The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America ISBN 0-679-45121-8 Bull, John; Farrand, Jr., John (April 1984).
The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, Eastern Region. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-394-41405-5.