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Bonaparte's Gull

Silhouette GullsGulls
Bonaparte's GullChroicocephalus philadelphia
  • ORDER: Charadriiformes
  • FAMILY: Laridae

Basic Description

Bonaparte’s Gulls are sleek, small gulls that breed in the boreal forest and winter farther south on ocean coasts, lakes, and rivers. Adults have black heads and red legs in the summer; in winter they have a neat gray smudge near the ear. They fly with ternlike agility, flashing bright white primaries that form a distinctive white wedge in the upperwing. Bonaparte’s Gulls capture flying insects and pluck tiny fish from the water with equal ease. They are unusual among gulls in their use of trees for nesting.

More ID Info
image of range map for Bonaparte's Gull
Range map provided by Birds of the World
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Find This Bird

In migration and winter, look for Bonaparte’s Gulls foraging for small fish on ocean waters or over lakes, rivers, or reservoirs—especially during changeable or foul weather. Pay attention to size (this is one of the smallest gulls in North America) and look for the adults’ distinctive white wedges in the wing. If you visit the far north in late May through July, scan spruces near water (especially on islands) for nesting pairs.

Other Names

  • Gaviota de Bonaparte (Spanish)
  • Mouette de Bonaparte (French)
  • Cool Facts