As regular CFZ-watchers will know, for some time Corinna has been doing a column for Animals & Men and a regular segment on On The Track... particularly about out-of-place birds and rare vagrants. There seem to be more and more bird stories from all over the world hitting the news these days so, to make room for them all - and to give them all equal and worthy coverage - she has set up this new blog to cover all things feathery and Fortean.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Thanks to migratory bird act, laughing gulls making a comeback – no joke

By Michael Burke on March 30, 2018

We had traveled to Cambridge, MD, to look for late winter waterfowl on the Choptank River, but instead I found myself looking at one of the true harbingers of spring.

No, it wasn’t a robin — many of which overwinter right here in Maryland. My gaze was fixed on a laughing gull (Leucophaeus atricilla), the raucous seagull that is an integral part of any summer beach scene on the East Coast, and a real springtime migrant.

We were in the parking lot of the Waterfront Park, and the gulls outnumbered the cars on that blustery March day last year. They were mostly ring-billed gulls, but four laughing gulls were there to announce the imminent arrival of spring.

Laughing gulls start to arrive in Maryland in mid-March annually. The biggest influx occurs in mid-April.

They arrive in the Chesapeake watershed already wearing their distinctive all-black heads.

Laughing gulls mate in late spring, incubate their eggs for three weeks and tend to their young for another month until they fledge. 

By mid– to late-July, a new generation is on its way, and the parents begin to molt into their “winter” plumage, and the black hood gives way to a white head with smudged patches of gray. It takes the brown juveniles three years to reach their adult colors. 

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