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COASTAL CRITTER:LAUGHING GULL (Larus atricilla)

DESCRIPTION:An adult Laughing Gull is easily distinguished by its all-black head, dark gray back and wings and white breasts and belly.  Its wings have a white rear edge and black wing-tips.  The beak is black, thick and slightly hooked downward.  Its legs and feet are black.  If you listen to its call, you will understand its common name. A Laughing Gull's size ranges from 12 to 18 inches long.

HABITAT/ECOLOGY:A Laughing Gull is a coastal shorebird commonly seen on islands and beaches.  It also frequents bays and marshes. Interestingly, it is commonly found eating garbage from landfills.  Its natural food source is fish, either dead or alive.  This bird is an acrobatic flyer and

naturally takes fish from the water's

surface, but can quickly adapt to catch fish (or any small food piece) thrown into the air by humans.  Unfortunately, the Laughing Gull doesn't know the difference between one human tossing up a snack to it and another human throwing a baited hook into the water.  Laughing Gulls also scavenge shore and pier areas, helping to keep them clean and free of dead and rotting marine life.  The Laughing Gull's nesting site may be found on beaches among other birds' nests or it may nest in marshes in clumps of grass.  

CONSERVATION:In recent years, as with other shorebirds, the Laughing Gull is showing a rapid decline in its population.  This is due to human encroachment (intrusion) into the bird's natural habitat.  The defenseless baby chicks are easy prey for cats and dogs.  Laughing Gulls become entangled in fishing line and fish hooks and are often injured or killed as a result.

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