BONAPARTE’S GULL

 

BONAPARTE’S GULL (Chroicocephalus philadelphia) (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Bonaparte’s gull has a black head (hood) in breeding plumage. The bill is black and the legs are pinkish orange. The neck, breast and under parts are white and the wings are grey with black wing tips. In non-breeding plumage adults have a white head with a small black patch behind the eye. Juveniles look different, with a black band along the tail and a black ‘M’ mark on the underside of the wings when seen from below (see photo). Both sexes are similar. This is a small gull at around 35 cm (14 in.) long.
VOICE: https://www.xeno-canto.org/species/Chroicocephalus-philadelphia
NAME: This gull got its name from French ornithologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte who first identified it in Philadelphia in the USA. The English name ‘Gull’ would have its origins in Old Celtic ‘Gullan’ and other languages, including Latin ‘gula’ for throat. As per Choate this would be related to the gull’s ‘indiscriminate’ scavenging habits, its ‘willingness to swallow almost anything’ (think ‘gullible’). The Latin genus name ‘Chroicocephalus’ is from Greek and means ‘color’, and ‘head’.
HABITAT: Boreal forest in its breeding range, and during migration along the coasts and around the Great Lakes.
DIET: The Bonaparte’s gull eats insects, and is known to prey on termites, especially when those insects emerge in swarms and fly in search of new territories. They also prey on salmon eggs and dive to get at them. Overall their diet is varied.
NESTING: Unlike other gulls, the Bonaparte’s builds its nest in conifers in small colonies not far from water. An average of three eggs of varied colors are laid. Both parents incubate them, and also care for the chicks.
DISTRIBUTION: The breeding range of this gull is in the western part of Canada mainly. It migrates to the whole of USA and also to northeast Mexico and the Caribbean. It is a visitor in Hawaii.
GULLS ON HAWAII: Gulls are not long time residents or indigenous to Hawaii. They are continental species and the Hawaiian Islands don’t seem to provide them with the habitat they need. Those birds that do make it however have either flown on their own or got blown off course, or hitched a ride on ships. In either case they don’t stay for long.
CONSERVATION: Bonaparte’s gull populations are widespread across their North America territory, and they are increasing, so they are not considered at risk.
NOTES: The Bonaparte’s gull is part of the ‘hooded’ gull group, which are gulls with a black head (in breeding plumage).
SIMILAR SPECIES: Because of its small size the Bonaparte’s gull can be confused with a tern, but the latter have longer wings and a long, forked tail, and also they only have a black cap, not a black head like the gulls.
In breeding plumage the Bonaparte’s gull can also be confused with the Black-headed Gull, but the latter has a dark red bill and dark red legs.
REFERENCES: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonaparte%27s_gull
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bonapartes_Gull/id
https://www.arkive.org/bonapartes-gull/larus-philadelphia/
http://identify.whatbird.com/obj/459/overview/Bonapartes_Gull.aspx
https://www.borealbirds.org/bird/bonapartes-gull

Bonaparte's Gulls - Souris area, PEI - July 27, 2013
Bonaparte’s Gulls – Souris area, PEI – July 27, 2013 – photo by Roberta Palmer
Bonaparte's Gull, nonbreeding plumage - Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Calif. - Dec. 2009 - photo by Basar
Bonaparte’s Gull, nonbreeding plumage – Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Calif. – Dec. 2009 – photo by Basar
Bonaparte's Gull in flight, nonbreeding plumage - Carlyle Lake, IL - Jan. 2016 - photo by Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren
Bonaparte’s Gull in flight, nonbreeding plumage – Carlyle Lake, IL – Jan. 2016 – photo by Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren
 

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