Laughing Gull - Larus atricilla
Habitat: Laughing Gulls prefer to nest on barrier beaches and estuarine islands that have moderate to dense vegetation.
Geographical Range: This bird lives on the coast and can be found from Nova Scotia to Venezuela. It also ranges from southeastern California to western Mexico and winters as far north as the Southern United States to Venezuela. This bird is rarely found inland.
Ecological Notes: The Laughing Gull gets its name from its call, which you may have already guessed, has a resemblance to laughter. These birds are noisy, aggressive, and aren’t afraid to steal prey of other birds. They feed on eggs and young hatchlings of birds, including eggs and young within their same species. These birds are gregarious. The Laughing Gull was once a threatened species because people used to hunt it down and make hats out of its feathers. However, it has been protected for some time now and it has made a comeback.
Journal Articles: A lot of animals within the marine world use synchronized hatching to ensure that the bulk of their young survive. Yes, predators will get a lot of them but the predators won’t get even close to catching them all. The link below discusses how Laughing Gulls use asynchrony when it comes to hatching their young. To see how this affects the number of fledglings, check out the journal reference below. Hahn, DC. “Asynchronous Hatching in the Laughing Gull: Cutting Losses and Reducing Rivalry.” Animal Behaviour, v. 29 issue 2, 1981, p. 421.
Just like human babies can be taught, chicks can be taught as well. The link below will take you to an article in which laughing gull chicks were taught to peck at models that fed them and that they learned best when the model was unusual. http://journals.ohiolink.edu/ejc/pdf.cgi/Griswold_Duane_A.pdf?issn=00033472&issue=v50i0005&article=1341_irblgc
Griswold, D. A., Harrer, M. F., Sladkin, C., Alessandro, D. A., & Gould, J. L. (1999). Intraspecific Recognition by Laughing Gull Chicks. Animal Behaviour , 1341-1348.
Personal Information: These birds were everywhere. If you couldn’t see them, you could hear them. Even though it may seem like a good idea to feed them, so they’ll shut up, that will just encourage them to stick around and beg for food even more. These birds also serve as excellent alarm clocks. Every morning, just after the sun was up, these birds were outside the tents “laughing”.
Contributed by Whitney Barker - 2008