Birds of Seabrook Island

COAST BIRDS
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ANECDOTES

  Laughing Gull
 
 

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Species Acct.
Loons
Grebes
Procellarids
Pelicans
Herons
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Storks
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Flamingos
Waterfowl
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Turkeys
Quail
Rails
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Gnatcatchers
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Icterids
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  Order Charadriiformes - Plovers, Sandpipers, Gulls, Terns, Auks
   Family Laridae - Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers
      Subfamily Larinae - Gulls

  Charadriiforms are a diverse group of shore and aquatic or wading or terrestrial birds. They include the sandgrouse, shore birds, gulls and terns, and alcids. The majority breed in the Northern Hemisphere.
   The Tree of Life includes shorebirds with the Ciconiiformes.
Gulls and Terns are found along seacoasts and most inland bodies of water around the world.
Gulls have three webbed toes and their toes are not hooked. The tail is rarely forked. The upper margin of the bill is curved and the maxilla overhangs the mandible at the tip. There is no cere. They are gregarious and generally have less spectacular migrations than shorebirds
Hooded Gulls have black heads in the breeding plumage.
 
Visiting Sea Bird Colonies
 
     
  Laughing Gull, Leucophaeus atricilla
 
  Cornell     USGS    Wiki     ToL     EoL
        YEAR ROUND - Common (fewer winter) / Common (few winter)
            BEACH, LAGOON, ESTUARY, INLAND
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   Laughing Gulls are medium-sized hooded (black-headed) gulls found in a variety of habitats, especially along open shorelines - but they also frequent parks, parking lots, dumps, and other urban areas with trash. They will chase other water-birds to steal food. They breed along the coast and are rare inland.
   The Laughing Gull is slender with a long bill that droops at the tip. Its wings appear slender and relatively long and its flight is graceful when compared to other gulls. Adults have a black head with white eye arcs and the bill is deep red. Many breeding birds also show some dark red on their legs. In non-breeders the bill and legs are black and the head is variably white with some darker feathers, especially on the nape, and there is a gray wash on the breast. Young birds are brownish but they have a gray mantle (back) by the first winter. They have a broad band on the tail to begin with but by the third winter, the tail is white.
   Gulls take up to four years to reach maturity and distinguishing species in the immature plumages may be the most difficult task in identifying gulls. Laughing Gulls attain the adult plumage in their third year.

Laughing Gull

Laughing Gull.
North Beach

     
  RANGE: Laughing Gulls breed locally on sea islands along the Pacific coast of western Mexico and the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Nova Scotia south to southern Texas, the West Indies, and to islands off Venezuela. In winter, birds are found south to Peru and the Amazon delta. In winter, individuals may also wander widely in interior North America - north to Washington in the west and Newfoundland and Greenland in the east.
  BREEDING: On sandy islands with scattered tall grass and brush. Monogamous. One brood. Laughing Gulls build a nest in tall grass or in grass under bushes and between dunes. Their nest is a scrape or saucer with little lining. Both sexes build the nest and may continue to add to it during incubation. The female lays 3 (2-4) eggs which both sexes incubate for ~20 days. Young are semiprecocial and remain in the nest for a few days, then wander nearby hiding under vegetation. Both parents feed young with semi-digested food at first and solid items later. They can fly after 35 days.
   They breed in colonies, some with thousands of nests and other species ( including terns and skimmers). Herring Gulls may prey on eggs and young and compete for nest sites within their colonies. (In all gull colonies, nests near the center of the colony are usually more successful than those nearer the periphery.)
  DIET: Laughing Gulls feed on garbage, snails, insects, fish, and some seabird eggs and young. In spring they may feed on the eggs of horseshoe crabs. They forage while walking, wading, swimming, or by dipping or plunging while flying. They may steal food from pelicans by landing on the pelican's head and removing fish from the pouch.
   The young are fed a partially digested regurgitant.
  VOICE: Laughing Gulls utter a diagnostic nasal laughing that permeates the marshes and beaches of Seabrook in the summer. At high tide in summer, groups swarm over the marsh feeding on grasshoppers that feed on the cord-grass. At all times they are common on and over the beach (there are fewer in winter - many move south to Florida or the Gulf). If the Brown Pelican is our diagnostic island bird, the Laughing Gull is a close second...
  NOTES:
   Checklists -
      Seabrook (breeds, Deveaux Bank). Kiawah - common spring through fall, uncommon winter. Edisto - summer.
      Coastal - common summer resident, fairly common winter visitor. Hilton Head - common permanent resident.
         Cape Romai
n - abundant/abundant (breeds)/common/occasional.
         Huntington Beach
- common April - November; uncommon December - March
      Caw Caw - common/common/common/uncommon. ACE - accidental/accidental/common/occasional.
   CBC: ACE 0, 6, 1, 5, 12, 0, 32, 16; Charleston 5. 5, 25, 35, 45, 27, 15, 10;
            St, Helena/Fripp x, x, x, x, x, x, 121, 219; Hilton head 599, 468, 899, 1115, 424, 52, 186, 803;
               Sun City/Okatie 515, 459, 12665, 2520, 2244, 1070, 699, 1498;
            McClellanville 48, 601, 20, 20, nc, 71, 92, 70; Winyah Bay x, x, 186, 527, 104, 212, 271, 75;
               Litchfield/Pawley's 15, 30, 122, 19, 419, 0, 22, 159.
   P&G: Resident: abundant summer, very common winter. Maximum: 10,000. Deveaux Bank, 4 June 1975. Egg dates: 30 May - 10 July.
   M&P: 5470 pairs nested on Deveaux Bank in 1976. High non-breeding counts of 5,000 birds at Sullivans Island, on19 November 1984, and Folly Island on 6 October 1990.
   Avendex: 3 reports.
   Potter: Common permanent resident, abundant in summer and uncommon to locally absent in winter.
  ●  Common. Characteristic gull of our beach in summer (the Ring-necked Gull predominates in winter). Often seen inland and heard flying over the island. Where they have been fed (Freshfields, our beach), they may approach closely giving you a good look at their blood red bill and deep red feet in the breeding season.
   
   

Visiting Sea Bird Colonies
 

   During visits to sea islands with nesting sea birds, there is no doubt that the presence of humans introduces significant mortality. Young may be driven from their natal area to face hostile adults in adjacent areas - the usual result is that the young is eaten - swallowed whole. Older young may be pecked to death by hostile adults if they stray from parental protection. Other species may also be affected - on many of the New England islands, cormorant colonies occupied the higher northern shore line but adults fled the nest with the first signs of disturbance and many eggs and young are then eaten by gulls.
   The point of this is that, as much as you might like to visit breeding colonies, your disturbance introduces significant mortality. Stay in your boat and enjoy the birds from the sea. This certainly applies to Deveaux Bank where numbers of sea birds breed.
   The reactions of different species of colonial birds to intruders is also interesting. Most will fly and call loudly, circling over your head - often making passes at you. They may also release feces/urine in your direction or cough up their last meal.
   Our Least Terns certainly do this and you may feel they are going to hit you but they manage to miss by several feet and they pass overhead. Herring Gulls also circle overhead and dive at you - often coming with inches of your head. I have had them touch me but this was probably a mistake on their part. The most unpleasant colony I have visited is one where Common Terns were nesting. They actually hover over your head and peck at your scalp until you bleed (or leave).
   Hats are a good idea in all colonies! Actually, unless you have a real reason to be in one, take the bird's agitation as friendly advice and leave. Your presence can't help their nesting success.
       
    Banner - Laughing Gulls and two Forster's Terns. Lagoon, North Beach.
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