Bird of the Week: Glaucous-winged Gull

The least festive bird since Scrooge McDuck in Mickey’s Christmas Carol

Image courtesy of Bird Watching Daily

Species: Glaucous-winged Gull, or Larus glaucescens

Family: Laridae (Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers)

Star sign: Gemini

Rating: 12/10

Ideal Date: Eating Hot Chip, Lying

Glaucous-winged Gulls are seagulls. What more is there to say? You already know what seagulls are like. They menace beaches and parking lots across the globe, stealing chips from innocent civilians and screaming very loudly. Before humans inhabited the West Coast, Glaucous-winged Gulls subsisted on fish and other seafood, but when us Homo Sapiens moseyed along they found a much more convenient source of sustenance, and their numbers have grown to match the increased supply of tasty garbage for them to scrounge. Even now during this festive time of year, Glaucous-winged Gulls celebrate a season of taking instead of giving. 

While seagulls have a negative reputation for their thieving ways, perhaps their behavior is less “Grinch” and more “Jack Skellington”; that is to say, they steal not out of spite, but out of love. Or at the very least an affection for not going hungry, which I’m sure anyone could understand. Is it not understandable for them to steal scraps of food from people who are so much better off than them? Sure, it sucks when one of these feathery friends steals one of your Doritos, but they have children to feed! Have some generosity! These clever and silly friends deserve delicious snacks in their stockings, not coal, and they know it. 

Although some “sea” gulls can be found far inland, Glaucous-winged Gulls are not such birds. They live all across the Northern Pacific Coast, their range stretching in an arc from Japan, north to Alaska, and back south all the way down to the Baja peninsula. These friends fly inland-enough to visit our humble campus and can often be found loitering on the sports fields just after sunrise, and on rare occasions will take dips in the Canyon. Even if they are menaces, it’s very sweet of them to visit. 

Gulls are gulls, and these friends (or foes, depending on your mood) are no exception. They are gull-shaped with gull-white heads and gull-yellow beaks with red spots and gull-grey wings. There are, of course, a few small differences; these fishy fellows have pink legs and are chunkier than the average seagull. Unlike the vast majority of gulls, their wing-tips are light grey instead of black. Of course, don’t relax now, because Glaucous-winged Gulls have been known to hybridize with Western, Glaucous, and Herring gulls. Furthermore, juvenile and non-breeding adults have even less distinctive, uniformly brown-grey coats. Honestly, it’s easier not to bother. A gull is a gull, no matter how you slice it, and there are better things to do with your time than staring at gulls and trying to determine what species they are. Why not pick up crochet? Or learn to play the tuba? Or just look at other birds. 

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