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Laughing gull
Laughing gull - natures pics.jpg
Laughing gull in flight
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Genus:
Leucophaeus
Species:
atricilla
Leucophaeus atricilla map.svg
Synonyms

Larus atricilla Linnaeus, 1758

The laughing gull (Leucophaeus atricilla) is a medium-sized gull of North and South America. Named for its laugh-like call, it is an opportunistic omnivore and scavenger. It breeds in large colonies mostly along the Atlantic coast of North America, the Caribbean, and northern South America. The two subspecies are: L. a. megalopterus – which can be seen from southeast Canada down to Central America, and L. a. atricilla which appears from the West Indies to the Venezuelan islands. The laughing gull was long placed in the genus Larus until its present placement in Leucophaeus, which follows the American Ornithologists' Union.

Name

The genus name Leucophaeus is from Ancient Greek λευκός : leukós, "white", and φαιός : phaios, "dusky". The specific atricilla is from Latin ater, "black", and cilla, "tail". Linnaeus appears to have misread his note atricapilla (black-haired), which would have been much more appropriate for this black-headed, but white-tailed, bird.

Range

It breeds on the Atlantic coast of North America, the Caribbean, and northern South America. Northernmost populations migrate farther south in winter, and this species occurs as a rare vagrant to western Europe. The laughing gull's English name is derived from its raucous kee-agh call, which sounds like a high-pitched laugh "ha... ha... ha...".

Laughing gulls breed in coastal marshes and ponds in large colonies. The large nest, made largely from grasses, is constructed on the ground. The three or four greenish eggs are incubated for about three weeks.

Description

This species is easy to identify. It is 36–41 cm (14–16 in) long with a 98–110 cm (39–43 in) wingspan and a weight range of 203–371g (7.2-13.1 oz). The summer adult's body is white apart from the dark grey back and wings and black head. Its wings are much darker grey than all other gulls of similar size except the smaller Franklin's gull, and they have black tips without the white crescent shown by Franklin's. The beak is long and red. The black hood is mostly lost in winter.

Laughing gulls take three years to reach adult plumage. Immature birds are always darker than most similar-sized gulls other than Franklin's. First-year birds are greyer below and have paler heads than first-year Franklin's, and second-years can be distinguished by the wing pattern and structure.

Subspecies

The two subspecies are:

Like most other members of the genus Leucophaeus, the laughing gull was long placed in the genus Larus. The present placement in Leucophaeus follows the American Ornithologists' Union.

Gallery

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