Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Herring Gull

Herring Gull
Phylum : Chordata
Class : Aves
Order : Charadriiformes
Family : Laridae
Genus : Larus
Species : L. smithsonianus

Length : 24in (60cm)
Wingspan : 53in (135cm)

IUCN Status : Least Concern

It's a pretty disgusting day today, but the Seagulls are still out and about, which made me want to write about them. And then I remembered that I had run into this problem when writing about the Little Gulls- there are like a zillion species of Seagull. So I tried to figure out which one was the species that I see all the time, and I think it might be today's animal, the Herring Gull.

The Herring Gull is, to quote Cornell's All About Birds, "the quintessential basic "seagull," with no distinctive characters that immediately set it apart from other gull species." It can be found all across North America, including several Caribbean Islands. Their habitat types vary, but are always close to water. They are found in both natural and urban environments, and have quite the affinity for garbage dumps.

Herring Gulls are large-ish Gulls, and have coloration and patterning that makes it easy to confuse them with many other Gull species. One interesting mark they have is a small red dot on their lower beak.

They are a carnivorous species, and are very opportunistic feeders. They eat a wide variety of vertebrates and invertebrates, and also feed off of carrion and garbage. Herring Gulls have the ability to drink salt water, possessing glands near their eyes that allow them to excrete the salt.

Herring Gulls live in flocks that are organized around a loose hierarchical system based on size. Many populations migrate, though not all, and they communicate through a wide variety of calls.

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