Larus philadelphia


The beautiful Boneparte's Gull is named after a nephew of Napoleon, Charles Lucien Bonaparte, who was a leading ornithologist in the 1800s in America and Europe. Bonaparte's are unusual among gulls, choosing to build their nests in trees rather than on the ground. During the breeding season, the Bonaparte's Gull feeds mainly on insects, often picking them from the surface of the water or from vegetation along the shoreline.


General: Sexes similar. 12 to 14 inches in length.

Adult Alternate: White neck, breast, belly, and tail. Pale gray back and upperwings. Black tips on primaries. White outer primaries with black tips. White underwings. Black hood that covers face, chin, forehead, and crown. Narrow white arcs above and below the eyes. Short, thin, black bill. Orange legs and feet.

Adult Basic: Similar to alternate plumage, except has white head with black ear spots instead of a black hood.

Juvenile/First Year: Head and body plumage similar to adult basic. Juveniles are strongly washed with brown. White tail with black terminal band. Pale gray upperwing marked by dark carpal bar.


Forested lakes and rivers. Winters along coasts and tidal lagoons.


2-4 blotchy olive or buff-brown eggs. The eggs have a 24 day incubation period. Fledging occurs in ? days. The nest is a shallow cup made from small twigs and sticks, lined with grass and moss. It is built in a spruce or fir tree near a lake or river. Breeds in the isolated taiga and boreal forests of the Far North. May nest in small colonies.

Observed Locations:

  • San Elijo Lagoon (west of I-5), Cardiff-by-the-Sea

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Copyright © Scott Streit, 2000.