Photo courtesy Curtis Miyasaka, Montgomery, AL
Gaillard Island. Mobile County, AL, 30 April 2008
Photo courtesy Donna Bell, Flomaton, Alabama
Copyright (c) 2006 Donna Bell
Photo courtesy Pete Williams, Gulf Breeze, Florida
Copyright (c) 2007 Pete Williams
The Laughing Gull is an overall length of 15 to 17 inches. The bird is small size; head black (breeding bird) or white with gray nape patch (non-breeding). The mantle is dark gray; wing tips are black (wings with white trailing edge is an immature bird). Its preferred habitat is coasts, estuaries, and salt marshes.
Laughing gulls are never found far from the coast, though small groups visit freshwater to bathe and drink. They also visit plowed fields in search of worms and insects. In southern waters these gulls keep company with Brown Pelicans and steal fish from them. These birds sometimes scavenge in dumps, and frequently follow boats for refuse and handouts.
Franklin's Gull has plumage similar to Laughing Gull , but the adult have a narrow white band separating the gray mantle from black wing tips. Franklin's Gull breeds farther inland in prairie marshes. Its floating nest is built of dead reeds anchored to growing vegetation. The species was named for Sir John Franklin, a 19th century explorer.