Short-Billed Gull

Larus brachyrhynchus
Range Map

When I met this bird, it was named the Mew Gull (Larus canus), but as of 2021, the American Ornithological Society split the Mew Gull into three forms of the Common Gull (Larus canus) and the Short-Billed Gull (Larus brachyrhynchus), reverting to the name applied when first described in 1886.

The “Mew Gull” complex includes the European Common Gull (now Larus canus canus), the Russian Common Gull (now Larus canus heinei), and the Kamchatka Common Gull (now Larus canus kamtschatschensis).

Taxonomists regard the Short-Billed Gull as monotypic (i.e. there are no subspecies).

The Short-Billed Gull is smaller than most other “white-headed” gulls. These North American gulls are west coast specialists that breed inland in western Canada and Alaska, and spend winters on the Pacific coast from Alaska to northern Baja California. These Gulls often nest on the ground near water, but sometimes they nest in trees.

In December 2003, I was touring the central California coast in search of Northern Elephant Seals. A year earlier I discovered these amazing creatures at Piedras Blancas, a few miles north of San Simeon. My second visit provided me with a meeting of the year’s first-born baby seal on the beach. Never one to miss a chance to meet birds, among the first encounters on the visit were a rare (at the time) Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, and my first Mew Gull. My 2005 expedition to Alaska provided many meetings with the birds we now call Short-Billed Gulls. During my 2022 expedition through western USA and Canada, I enjoyed their company in the southern Yukon Territory.

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