Bonaparte’s Gull

Range Map
Chroicocephalus philadelphia

The Bonaparte’s Gull is the smallest gull seen regularly in North America. They nest in Boreal forests of Canada and Alaska, but spend winters along the North American coast, lower Mississippi Valley and the Great Lakes. They are the only gull species known to regularly nest in trees.

Recent DNA studies revealed information to revise the long-standing classification of the Bonaparte’s Gull in the genus Larus. Now the accepted genus for these birds is Chroicocephalus. 

Taxonomists regard the Bonaparte’s Gull as monotypic (i.e. there are no subspecies).

My meetings with this species have been in Alaska, Oregon, California, out to sea off Baja California in Mexico, and even in Texas at the mouth of the Rio Grande. More recently, during my 2022 tour through western Canada, I found myself in their company in southern Yukon and in northern Alberta.

My favorite recollection of these meetings came in April 2016, when I was in Oregon at Klamath Falls. A migrating flock of small black-headed gulls flew into the waterway I was filming, and began foraging on midges hovering over the surface of the water, and I captured some of their feeding behaviors.

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