WESTERN GULL (Larus occidentalis) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Western Gull has a white head, neck and under parts, and dark grey wings (on top). The wings underside is mostly white with dark tips. The tail is black. The yellow bill has a orange-red spot near the tip of the lower mandible. The eyes are The legs and feet are pink. Sexes are similar. Juveniles have grey under parts, head and neck. The back and wings are mottled brown and the bill is black. Their legs are pinkish. This bird reaches adult plumage in four years. It measures about 60 cm (25 inches) long.
VOICE: https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Larus-occidentalis
NAME: The English name ‘Gull’ would have its origins in Old Celtic ‘Gullan’ and other languages, including Latin ‘gula’ for throat. As per Choate this would be related to the gull’s ‘indiscriminate’ scavenging habits, its ‘willingness to swallow almost anything’ (think ‘gullible’). The Latin genus name ‘Larus’ means ‘gull’, and the Latin species name ‘occidentalis’ means ‘west’.
HABITAT: Mostly pelagic, also on beaches and shores, landfills.
DIET: At sea, fish, squid, krill and crustaceans. On land, invertebrates, carrion, garbage. Also prey on eggs and birds.
NESTING: Nests in colonies on small islands, sometimes with other gull species. Usually three green-beige eggs are laid, incubated by both parents. They also both feed the chicks.
DISTRIBUTION: Coastal areas of southern British Columbia, the western USA and Baja California in Mexico. Some individuals have been able to reach Hawaii. (See note below on bird vagrancy.)
CONSERVATION: Currently this gull is not at risk, however its range is limited.
NOTES: The western gull is one of the species used in Alfred Hitchock‘s horror movie ‘The Birds‘.
Vagrancy: In biology this means an animal going way outside its normal range. For birds, this can happen when there are storms and they get blown off course. On other times, the bird simply wanders in a different direction than usual. Here’s an article about vagrancy in birds.
GULLS ON HAWAII: Gulls are not long time residents or indigenous to Hawaii. They are continental species and the Hawaiian Islands don’t seem to provide them with the habitat they need. Those birds that do make it however have either flown on their own or got blown off course, or hitched a ride on ships. In either case they don’t stay for long.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Herring Gull, Ring-billed Gull
REFERENCES: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_gull

Western Gull in Calif. – Sept. 26, 2016 – photo by Roberta Palmer
Western gull, CA
by Roberta Palmer
Western gull, CA, by Roberta Palmer