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Last Updated: May 23rd, 2010 - 21:01:09


State Bird of Utah
Sep 7, 2006, 17:42 PST

California Gull
Larus californicus

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 17 inches Wingspan: 52 inches
  • Medium-sized gull
  • Fairly large bill with distinct gonydeal angle
  • Fairly rounded forehead and smaller bill give more "gentle" appearance than Herring Gull

Adult alternate:

  • Bright yellow bill with complete black ring distal to red spot at gonys
  • Bright yellow legs
  • Brown eye
  • White head, neck, breast, and belly
  • Gray back and upperwings
  • White tertial crescent
  • Black primaries with white tips and two white mirrors on outer primaries

Adult basic:

  • Like adult alternate but blurry brown streaking and spotting on head and nape


  • Black bill quickly developing pale pink base
  • Wholly brown body plumage
  • Dark brown primaries
  • Dark brown secondaries and greater secondary coverts appears as double dark bar on trailing edge of wing in flight
  • Black legs quickly become pink
  • Dark outer primaries
  • Dark tail
  • Pale rump marked with bark bars and appears dark


  • Green-yellow bill with black tip
  • Pale head, neck, upper breast, and belly with brown streaking
  • Dull brown upperwing coverts
  • Dark brown primaries and tail
  • Gray back
  • White tail with dark terminal band


  • Like adult basic, but often lacks adult bill pattern, wing pattern, and often retains a partial tail band

Similar species:

Adult Herring Gulls are similar to California Gulls but are larger, have pinkish legs, a yellow iris, paler backs, and a slightly thicker yellow bill with a more pronounced gonys. First-winter Herring Gulls are extremely similar but usually have entirely black bills and only show contrasting secondaries in flight, and lack contrasting greater secondary coverts. Immature birds are probably best separated by the subtleties of size, shape and bill shape. Some subadult Herring Gulls can have both a red spot and black ring on the bill, as well as yellowish or gray legs, so identify such birds with caution. Adults are darker-backed than Ring-billeds, with a brown eye, heavier head streaking, and a different bill pattern. Immatures are browner overall than immature Ring-billed Gulls and show less contrast between the upperwing coverts and the secondaries. The Lesser Black-backed Gull, increasingly common in the New World, is similar but is longer-winged. Adults are darker-backed, have yellow legs and a pale iris, and first-year birds are darker backed and have dark bills through their first summer at which point their darker back color begins to show. The upperwings of first winter birds also show almost no contrast in flight and at rest. Adult Mew Gulls are smaller with unmarked yellow bills.

Length and wingspan from: Robbins, C.S., Bruun, B., Zim, H.S., (1966). Birds of North America. New York: Western Publishing Company, Inc.
Source: USGS

Learn more with the help of Google.

Handheld Birds and Software at National Geographic

Keywords: state bird of Utah, Utah, Utah state bird, California Gull, ClassBrain, state report, homework help,

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