Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Great Basin California Gull

I have posts for 13 different species of gull from many parts of the world: American herring gull in New Brunswick, Canada; black-headed gull in Iceland; glaucus gull, glaucus-winged gull and black-legged kittiwake in Alaska; Cape gull in South Africa; great black-backed gull in Novia Scotia, Canada; European herring gull in the Netherlands; Thayer's gull and Heermanns gull in Sonora, Mexico; laughing gull at Canaveral Seashore in Florida; ring-billed gull in St. Augustine, Florida; and the western gull on Catalina Island, California; but until now I had not posted on the gull I grew up with, the California gull which is ironically the state bird of Utah. 
In 1848, less than a year after the Brigham Young led Mormons arrived in the Great Salt Lake Valley, a huge infestation of what are now known as Mormon crickets started to devour their crops and many California gulls descended upon the crickets and started to devour them, partially saving their crops. In 1913 a bronze statue of two gulls sculpted by Mahonri M. Young, a grandson of Brigham Young, was installed on Temple Square in front of the Assembly Hall and dedicated by LDS president Joseph F. Smith. The Seagull Monument, as it is known, is believed to be the first monument to birds in the world. Because of this 1848 event, the California gull was named the Utah state bird in 1955. 
The California gull is a medium-sized gull that is primarily white, with a gray back and upper wings, black primary feathers with white tips, a yellow bill with a black ring and a small red spot, yellow legs and brown eyes. Breeding California gulls have a completely white head and a more pronounced red spot on the lower bill (mandible) and a less visible black spot. The head in non-breeding plumage is heavily streaked with brown. 

There are two subspecies of California gull. The Great Basin California gull is found in the Great Basin of the western U.S. and up into Wyoming and central Montana. The Great Plains California gull ranges from Great Slave Lake onto the Great Plains of western Manitoba and South Dakota. The subspecies are not distinguishable by eye. I saw these Great Basin California gulls along the causeway to Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. However, as a youth I used to see them in the Salt Lake City area and remember them being particularly prevalent at the dump. 

1 comment:

  1. The one bird any Utahan can consistently identify, right? Maybe spring robins also belong on the list.