Family: Laridae, Gulls and Terns view all from this family
Description ADULT SUMMER Has mainly dark gray back and upper wings, with white trailing edge and black and white tips to wings; underparts, including neck, are white, sometimes flushed pink on breast and belly. Note dark hood and striking white "eyelids," and red legs and bill. ADULT WINTER Similar, but dark hood is much reduced and absent altogether on forecrown. JUVENILE Resembles brownish version of winter adult, but molts in fall to first-winter plumage: gray back, gray inner upper wing marbled with brown feathering, and mainly dark flight feathers. Legs and bill are dark, and note narrow dark tail band that does not reach outer margins.
Dimensions Length: 13-15" (33-38 cm)
Habitat Locally common breeding species, restricted to prairie marshes. Post-breeding birds wander south, Aug-Nov, before migrating to coasts of South America for winter.
Observation Tips Relatively easy to see if you visit suitable habitats within breeding range, May-Aug. Migrants and post-breeding wanderers are sometimes seen at freshwater sites south of breeding range, but species seldom reaches western coast.
Range Eastern Canada, Rocky Mountains, Florida, Northwest, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Southwest, Great Lakes, California, Texas, Western Canada, Plains, New England
Voice Utters clipped, yelping calls. Colonies sound like an audience's hysterical laughter.
Discussion Small, elegant gull. Superficially similar to larger Laughing, but separable on basis of daintier proportions, particularly legs and bill; latter is straight (slightly downcurved in Laughing). Adult has distinctive markings on wingtips: pattern of white-black-white (wingtip of Laughing is uniformly black). In winter, adult retains more extensive dark markings on head than winter Laughing. First-winter has narrower dark tail band than similar age Laughing. Breeds colonially and often migrates in flocks. Sexes are similar.