Laughing Gull

Laughing Gull

Leucophaeus atricilla
Population size
528,000-1 M
Life Span
15-22 yrs
203-371 g
36-41 cm
98-110 cm

The Laughing gull is a medium-sized bird of North and South America named for its laugh-like call. The summer adult's body is white apart from the dark grey back and wings and black head. The beak is long and red. The black hood is mostly lost in winter. Immature birds are generally mottled brown and tan in color and it takes them three years to reach adult plumage.


Laughing gulls breed on the Atlantic coast of North America, the Caribbean, and northern South America. Northernmost populations migrate farther south in winter, and these birds occur as a rare vagrant to western Europe. Laughing gulls are coastal birds; they can be found in salt marshes, estuaries, coastal bays, along beaches, or on agricultural fields near the coast.

Laughing Gull habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Laughing gulls are gregarious birds that forage, rest, nest, and migrate in flocks. They are noisy and aggressive in nature and never hesitate to steal the prey of other birds. They feed by walking along the beach, by dabbling into the mud, by swimming, or by pecking their prey at the surface during the flight. Laughing gulls are active during the day, however, when the breeding season comes they may switch to nocturnal activity and forage at night as well. These birds communicate vocally and their call is loud, high-pitched "ha-ha-ha-ha-haah-haah-haah-haah-haa".

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Laughing gulls are opportunistic carnivores and scavengers. They eat mainly fish, shellfish, crabs, mollusks, insects, bird eggs, and young birds. These birds also consume berries, garbage, refuse and carrion.

Mating Habits

3 weeks
35 days
3-4 eggs

Laughing gulls are monogamous and form long-term pair bonds. They breed from early April and until July. Pairs nest in large colonies. They construct large nests on the ground, made from grasses and plant matter. Females lay 3-4 greenish eggs and incubate them for about three weeks. Chicks are precocial (fully-developed) and are able to leave the nest a few days after hatching. Both parents care for their young until they fledge which happens at around 35 days old. Laughing gulls usually become reproductively mature when they are two years old.


Population threats

There are no major threats to Laughing gulls at present. However, these birds suffer from destruction of the coastal habitat that they are so dependant on, and from predation by Herring gulls which steal the eggs and nestlings.

Population number

According to the All About Birds resource, the total population size of the Laughing gull in North America is around 528,000-538,000 breeding birds. According to the What Bird resource, the total population size of the species is almost 1 million individuals. Overall, currently Laughing gulls are classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and their numbers today are increasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The genus name of the Laughing gull "Leucophaeus" comes from Ancient Greek leukos - "white", and phaios - "dusky". The specific name "atricilla" comes from Latin ater - "black", and cilla - "tail".
  • The Laughing gull's English name is derived from its raucous kee-agh call, which sounds like a high-pitched laugh "ha... ha... ha...".
  • In order to steal food from Brown pelicans, the Laughing gull goes down on their head and snatches out the fish directly from their pouch.
  • A breeding Laughing gull pair usually builds their nest together. If a male can't find a mate, he may still start building a nest platform and use it in order to attract females.
  • Laughing gulls always remove the eggshells from their nest after the eggs hatch because a piece of the shell may lodge on top of the smaller unhatched egg and can prevent it from hatching.


1. Laughing Gull on Wikipedia -
2. Laughing Gull on The IUCN Red List site -

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