Bonaparte's Gull

Chroicocephalus philadelphia

Summary 5

Smaller than most gulls, Bonaparte’s Gull is most easily identified by its size (13 inches), thin black bill, and bright orange legs. In summer, this species has a black head, gray body, and light gray wings that, unlike those of the similarly-patterned Laughing Gull (Leucophaeus atricilla), have white leading edges and black tips. In winter, this species becomes white-headed except for a small black spot behind the eye. Male and female Bonaparte’s Gulls are similar to one another in all seasons.

Bonaparte’s Gull breeds over a wide area of southern Alaska and Canada east to Quebec. However, despite its large breeding territory, this species nests only locally within its breeding range. In winter, Bonaparte’s Gulls migrate south to the southern Great Lakes and coastal areas of the U.S.south to central Mexico. In summer, Bonaparte’s Gulls breed along open edges of northern evergreen forests near water, being among the only gulls to nest in trees. In winter, this species may be found along large bodies of fresh or salt water, including on riverbanks, sandy beaches, and the open ocean.

Bonaparte’s Gull eats small fish at all seasons, but this species also eats insects while further inland in summer. Due to the relative inaccessibility of this species’ breeding grounds, most birdwatchers only observe Bonaparte’s Gulls during winter, when they are relatively common along the coasts. At this time of year, this species is most easily observed plunging into the water to catch small fish. Bonaparte’s Gull is most active during the day.

Threat Status: Least concern

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Len Blumin, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND),
  2. (c) Andrew Reding, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND),
  3. (c) Andrew Reding, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-ND),
  4. (c) Jamie Chavez, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC),
  5. Adapted by carmacks_bioblitz from a work by (c) Unknown, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),

More Info

Range Map

iNatCA Map

Animal Bird
Color black, grey, white
Bird Laridae (gulls)