Laughing Gulls at West Dog



Leucophaeus atricilla

This coastal bird is the most common seagull in the Caribbean, known for both its raucous laughing call and its thieving ways. Gulls differ from Terns in having slightly hooked bills and square tails. Its head is black in the breeding season, mottled at other times, the wings are dark and the body light. 

The Laughing gull is infamous for landing on the backs of brown pelicans in order to snatch fish right out of their capacious beaks. The Gull will also eat mollusks, bird eggs, young birds, squid, crabs and other crustaceans, insects, carrion, and garbage, so can frequently be seen on island rubbish heaps. They inhabit salt ponds, beaches and rocky shores, as I have shown them here, enjoying their Bird Sanctuary on West Dog in the Dog Islands near Virgin Gorda. 

In spring the Laughing Gulls gather in colonies on the sand to make their nests of coastal grasses directly on the ground, in which the females lay 3 pale brown eggs freckled with darker brown markings. Both males and females care for the chicks.

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