California Gull

Larus californicus
Range Map

The California Gull is remembered as the bird that ‘saved’ the Mormons in the 1840s, when a plague of Mormon Crickets threatened to devastate their crops. The gulls were just doing what gulls do, and exploiting the readily available food source. However, those early settlers (some even related to me) were so relieved to have the threat to their crops lifted, made it part of their lore, calling it a miracle.

Some authorities regard the California Gull as monotypic (i.e. no subspecies). Others call out two subspecies:

  • L. c. californicus breeds from eastern Washington to Montana and Wyoming, as well as the Great Basin from eastern California to Utah.
  • L. c. albertaensis breeds in west-central Canada from the southern Mackenzie Valley (Great Slave Lake in Alberta), and Manitoba, south into northern USA as far as South Dakota.

Given my birthplace in southern California, it should surprise nobody that most of my meetings with California Gulls have come near my home. That said, my most memorable encounters have come at Mono Lake in the eastern Sierra-Nevada district, and on Antelope Island, in the Salt Lake City region. There, I’ve enjoyed the spectacle of these birds bull-dozing through clouds of brine flies with mouths agape, snapping up micro-meals as fast as they can.

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