English and Scientific names:

California Gull

Larus californicus

Number of individuals: 

1  1st  year

Locality: LOUISIANA: 


Specific Locality:

Holly Beach about .5-1 mile E of community

Date(s) when observed:


Time(s) of day when observed:  


Reporting observer and address:

Paul E. Conover

Lafayette, LA

Other observers accompanying reporter who also identified the bird(s):

Mike Musumeche, Dave Patton

Other observers who independently identified the bird(s)


Light conditions (position of bird in relation to shade and to direction and amount of light):

Excellent morning sun. The bird moved a few times, but we usually had it with the sun to our backs.

Optical equipment: 

Nikon III Fieldscope 20-60, Zeiss 10s, Nikon D50 w/200 mm lens

Distance to bird(s): 

As close as 20 yards.

Duration of observation:

Perhaps 30 minutes


Open beach, close to water’s edge.

Behavior of bird: 

The bird was extremely tame, mostly because it was territorial about fish on the beach. It fed on a menhaden, then swallowed the carcass whole. It was aggressive toward the Laughing Gulls that were near.  The bird would fly when got too near, but would circle back and land in exact spot or nearby.


Medium-sized gull, slightly larger than Laughing Gull. Long wings, small head.  


A very ratty-looking gull. When I saw it I thought it would be a California, but on first binocular look it seemed as likely to be a worn 2nd year Herring. The head and neck were worn and spiky and appeared bleached, and even the mantle looked worn. I was surprised to see a California Gull so worn by such an early date. The possibility of it being a delayed 2nd year bird seemed unlikely given the relative crispness of the wings and tail.


Head and neck: largely whitish, interspersed with brown that seemed almost like a stain, more concentrated on head but forming no discernible pattern. Upper half of neck the whitest area, contrasting with rest of bird.


Broad smudgy brown band at juncture of nape and mantle forming dorsal half collar.


Mantle and scapulars: grayish-brown. Only a few patterned feathers mixed in, some with subterminal “anchor” markings.


Folded wings: checkered brown and white on lesser and median coverts, with more solidly brown greater coverts forming a dark bar along rear edge of folded wing. Primaries dark brown, extending well beyond tail tip.


Underparts: with fine wavy brown barring, with brown barring becoming denser and more discrete on lower belly onto undertail coverts.


Spread wings: underneath evenly pale silvery brown, slightly darker on lesser and median coverts.



Lesser and median coverts: checkered brown and white.


Greater secondary coverts: solidly brown on basal 2/3 to ¾ but with appearance of very tight transverse barring. Transverse banding becoming more spaced toward distal portion of greater coverts with pale whitish-brown ground color becoming evident. Most distal brown band forming a subterminal diamond pattern on each feather. These subterminal diamonds aligning into thin, discrete dark subterminal band down length of greater secondary coverts bordered above and below by distinct whitish bands. These whitish bands separating mostly dark brown greater secondary coverts from evenly dark brown but white fringe-tipped secondaries, forming a double dark band on trailing edge of wing.


Greater primary coverts: evenly brown, thin white fringe on tips.


Primaries: Outer primaries dark brown or gray-brown, darker on shaft and tip. Inner 5 primaries similar but white-fringed on tips, some with small pale lateral notches on proximal borders of dark feather tips (on inner and outer webs of pp2 –3, on inner webs only of p4-5 [indistinct on p5]). Pale areas on inner primaries more apparent, either because of lighter color of webs or greater extent of pale color, but pale window formed as a result contrasting very slightly with rest of primaries.


Tail: dark brown with small white fringes at tip. Outer pair of rectrices with fine wavy brown and white barring basally.


Uppertail coverts: barred with broad wavy even-width brown and white bands. Wavy brown and white pattern continuing onto lower mantle but becoming less discrete. Upper- and undertail pattern very similar.


Legs: tibia with pale bluish gray cast. Rest of legs pale whitish pink. Nails dark.


Eye: dark brown.


Bill: pale clear yellowish or pinkish with clean black-tip extending back just behind gonys below and to just anterior to nares above.  Loral feathering extending well forward, ending in an acute angle about a nostril’s length behind the rear edge of the nostril. Chin feathering also extending prominently forward, thus enclosing almost the basal half of the bill between loral and chin feathering.


I can’t honestly recall if it called.

Similar species:

Double dark bar on trailing edge, lack of window on inner primaries eliminate 1st and 2nd year Herring Gull.


Lesser Black-backed Gull also has double dark bar, but overall plumage and bill color different.


Black-tailed Gull has similar bill, but is considerably different in plumage.

Photographs or tape recordings obtained?

Photos by all observers, videotape by Conover.

Previous experience with this species: 

Moderate. Seen on multiple occasions out west, a handful of times in Louisiana.

Identification aids:

I recalled that this bird bore a resemblance to a figure in Olsen and Larsson. After the sighting I located it—fig 115.

This description is written from: 

Memory, consulting with photos.

Are you positive of your identification? If not, explain: 



Date and time: