California Gull (Seagull)
Scientific Name: Larus Californicus
Pictures: (click for larger images)
California Gulls (I'm pretty sure) seen at Play Del Rey (not on campus) 3/19/06. Notice the yellow legs. Photo by Jason Finley. California Gull Illustration.
-Illustration by Robert C. Stebbins from "Birds of the Campus" (1947) by Dr. Loye Miller.
Description: Large. 20-23" in length (beak to tail), bigger than a Pigeon, but smaller than a Red-Tailed Hawk. White breast, neck, head. Large yellow beak with red spot on lower half. Back, wings, and tail are a medium gray. Tall neck, tall yellow legs, and webbed feet! Probably the best way to tell the California Gull from the Western Gull is by the legs: California has yellow and Western has pink.
Commonality/Seasonality: Uncommon. I think we mostly get Western Gulls, but California Gulls do probably show up from time to time. Should be year round, perhaps more in Winter.
Location: Mostly they are found in the Westwood village back alleys, among the dumpsters and parking lots.
Notes: It takes these guys FOUR YEARS to acquire their adult plumage! Juveniles are all speckly: white, gray, and light brown. You'll often see them flying overhead, and can pick out the distinctive shape of their wings. You can also observe their magnificent wings as they jockey for positions among the trash. We also might have Western Gulls around sometimes, which are slightly bigger and have darker gray parts than the California Gulls.
Historical: Dr. Loye Miller wrote about the Glaucous-winged Gull, California Gull, and Ring-billed Gull together:
All three species have been positively identified on the campus, but it is extremely hard to distinguish the young in mixed flocks since it takes three years to attain the full adult plumage of pure white body and tail with light gray back and wings.
The gulls come inland in fall and winter quite independently of weather conditions in southern California. They may sit about sunning themselves in large groups on the ball fields or they may appear in flight anywhere else. On a windy day they play in towering spirals high over the Esplanade like bits of white paper against the blue or gray.
-Miller, Loye. "Birds of the Campus, University of California, Los Angeles," from University of California Syllabus Series, No. 300. Text by Loye Miller, illustrations by Robert C. Stebbins. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1947.