Franklin’s and Laughing Gulls are very similar in appearance, they both have dark hoods during the breeding season along with reddish legs, feet and bills. They both have white chests, white eye-arcs and soft gray plumage on their backs and wings.
Franklin’s Gull are smaller and more delicate in appearance than Laughing Gulls and during the breeding season (and some times non breeding season) they can have a pink tint to their chests and underparts.
The eye-arcs in Franklin’s Gulls are broad and more prominent than they are in Laughing Gulls. Their bills are shorter and thinner than in Laughing Gulls.
Laughing Gulls have small white spots on their primaries where Franklin’s Gulls have larger spots on their primaries.
Franklin’s Gulls are found at inland locations during their breeding season in western areas of North America nesting in marshes and freshwater and saline lakes. Only during migration and winter are they found in coastal areas.
Laughing Gulls are almost entirely coastal and prefer islands to nest on. Franklin’s Gulls do show up in Florida during the winter so looking for them carefully in flocks of Laughing Gulls could be productive.
A Laughing Gull was found by Matthew Pendleton here in Utah in January of 2015 and was a first record for the state.
I am fortunate to see Franklin’s Gulls by the thousands from the causeway to Antelope Island State Park, at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and further north I often see them at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. The Great Salt Lake provides this species with plenty of food because of the brine flies and midges found there. It is not unusual to see them picking the brine flies off the surface of the lake, on the shoreline or rocks on the shore. They also feed by standing in one place picking the brine flies out of the air.
I don’t often see Franklin’s Gulls chasing brine flies like the California Gulls do so when I see it I like to stop and take images of them running through clouds of brine flies.
I know this isn’t a complete Franklin’s Gull and Laughing Gull comparison but I’m not a scientist, just a bird photographer and bird lover. Oh yeah, I also appreciate the grace and beauty of gulls.
Life is good.