Laughing Gulls in breeding and nonbreeding plumage

/, Florida, Fort De Soto County Park, Laughing Gulls/Laughing Gulls in breeding and nonbreeding plumage

Laughing Gull in nonbreeding plumageLaughing Gull in nonbreeding plumage – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 320, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 230mm, natural light, not baited

Both of these Laughing Gulls in breeding and nonbreeding plumage images were taken at Fort De Soto County Park’s north beach in Florida, the image above shows a Laughing gull in nonbreeding plumage that was taken in September of 2008. It was a crazy day, there was a hurricane way out in the Gulf of Mexico, the wind was blowing hard and pushing baitfish close to shore and the bird activity was great.

Note the nearly white head, the black bill and how the white eye arcs don’t stand out all that well from the surrounding white of the head.

Bathing Laughing Gull in breeding plumageBathing Laughing Gull in breeding plumage – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/640, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 330mm, natural light, not baited

This Laughing Gull was bathing in a tidal lagoon when I photographed it in May of 2009 and it is in breeding plumage, note the dark head, how the bill has changed to a dark red and how well the white eye arcs stand out from the dark head. Also this Laughing Gull shows a red orbital ring around the eye that the gull in nonbreeding plumage does not have. This image does not show the legs of the gull but they are a mahogany red color instead of the dark gray legs of a nonbreeding bird.

To the untrained eye these two Laughing Gulls might look like two different gull species because of the differences in appearance.



  1. Mia McPherson July 29, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    My thanks to all you for your thoughtful comments.

  2. Julie Brown June 30, 2013 at 7:47 am

    Excellent comparison shots. I just returned from my workshop in Maine where I saw many Laughing Gulls in breeding plumage in Muscongus Bay.

  3. Bryce Robinson June 30, 2013 at 12:41 am

    Excellent. I love images comparing two different plumages of the same species. It is always fun to go back and forth and soak in all the differences, and all the similarities. You really get to know the bird.

  4. M. Firpi June 29, 2013 at 4:55 pm

    Beautiful Laughing Gulls, we have them here too, and quite abundant on the Piñones mangrove forest (Bosque de Piñones) the northeast part of the island. Not on the commercial beaches, however.

  5. Elephant's Child June 29, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Amazing transformation. The things that love/lust makes us do…
    Wonderful photos, thank you.

  6. Dave Sparks June 29, 2013 at 10:23 am

    I like your posts that give ID information. Often you point out characteristics that I’m ignoring.
    Glad someone else is still processing photos from 2008. 🙂

  7. Stu June 29, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Very informative Mia. Thanks for the images and the information to go with them!

  8. Jane Chesebrough June 29, 2013 at 9:30 am

    No kidding , I was thinking of a Franklin’s Gull but it is different.Great shots.

  9. patty chadwick June 29, 2013 at 6:51 am

    Such wonderful shots and amazing contrasts…I cannot understand how the heck breeding birds can change the colors of particular body parts so dramatically and so drastically…then back again. It’s not like changing your clothes….another of Natures’ miracles to me.

  10. Bob Bushell June 29, 2013 at 6:05 am

    Beautiful, the best Laughing Gull I have seen.

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