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Heermann's Gull

Silhouette GullsGulls
Heermann's GullLarus heermanni
  • ORDER: Charadriiformes
  • FAMILY: Laridae

Basic Description

Possibly the easiest-to-identify gull in North America, Heermann’s Gulls in breeding plumage are mostly deep storm-cloud gray with a pearly white head and a brilliant red bill. Immatures are also distinctive, with dark sooty brown plumage and little streaking or mottling. These medium-sized gulls breed in Mexico's Gulf of California and then migrate northward to spend late summer and fall along the Pacific Coast. They feed mainly on anchovies and sardines, often harrying pelicans and other seabirds to steal their catches.

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

Heermann’s Gulls can be scarce outside of Mexico before May, when nonbreeding birds begin to show up on the California coast. From June through September, they are common along the Pacific Coast. Look for them among large flocks of gulls and terns, especially on sandy beaches and in kelp beds just offshore. Because they often pirate fish from Brown Pelicans, watch for pelicans feeding—the gulls are almost certain to be nearby. They remain fairly numerous into December, but by January most will be back on their breeding grounds.

Other Names

  • Gaviota Mexicana (Spanish)
  • Goéland de Heermann (French)
  • Cool Facts