Glaucous-winged Gull    Larus glaucescens



Named for it's gray wings (the greek word "glaukos" means blue-gray) this species is the most common large (average body length of 26 inches) gull around Puget Sound.  


However identifying gulls is not an easy task as this species can be confused with a similar-sized gull with a darker back called a Western Gull.  In addition these two species interbreed resulting in a hybrid gull which is not easily distinguished from the lighter glaucous-winged gull.  They also take four years to mature with each year showing a different range of feather colors.  Even the bill color varies with age.  


The glaucous-winged gull ranges from Baja California north to Alaska.  While they are mainly a coastal species they have expanded their range to inland areas of the Pacific Northwest in the last 50 years.


This species, like other gulls, nest in colonial groups.  Nesting locations range from isolated cliffs to small islands including the tops of large warehouses or apartment buildings near the water. The adults usually return to the same nesting location and partner each year.  The nests are made of seaweed and grass.  The eggs are laid in spring taking around 29 days to hatch.  The young stick close to the nest while being fed by the parent for another 35 to 50 days.  The young trigger the regurgitation of food by pecking at the red spot on the parent's bill.


They feed on a variety of food items ranging from sea stars, moon snails, crabs, clams, mussels, small fish and human garbage. They also spend a lot of time stealing food items from diving ducks and other sea gulls.  They breach the shelled defense of clams and snails by dropping them from a height of 15 to 30 feet onto rocks or gravel beaches breaking open the shells.  Looking like they may choke, they will also swallow small sea stars whole.