13 1/2-14 1/2" (34-39 cm). In summer, the head is black with a conspicuous broken white eye-ring and red, slender bill, and the breast has a rosy bloom. Back gray; wings gray, ending in a white band and then black tips. Usually have black legs, but sometimes red feet. Immatures are brownish-gray above and white below, with black tail band, and hooded appearance.
Similar Species- Laughing Gull
A shrill, laughing kuk-kuk-kuk; also mewing cries.
Breeds from Canadian Prairie Provinces, south to east-central Oregon, southern Idaho, northwestern Utah, northwestern Wyoming, northeastern South Dakota, and northwestern Indiana. Nonbreeders occur in summer from east-central British Columbia and northeastern Manitoba, south to northern New Mexico, southeastern Wyoming, Kansas, central Indiana, and Great Lakes. Winters primarily in South America, and casually along coastal Texas and Louisiana.
Feeds primarily on insects. Also eats aquatic insects and small fishes in small ponds and sloughs.
Builds floating nest anchored to platform of dead reeds. Forms large colonies (up to 15,000-20,000 individuals); largest colony in Idaho is at Gray's Lake National Wildlife Refuge with an estimated 5,000-6,000 nests. Breeders will desert nests if disturbed. Individuals catch prey in air and follow farmers' plows to feed on unearthed insects and their larvae.
|Status:||Protected nongame species|
Trost, C.H. and A. Gerstell. 1994. Status and distribution of colonial nesting waterbirds in southern Idaho, 1993. Dept. Biol. Sciences, Idaho St. Univ., Pocatello. 74pp.