Here in Northern Ontario, we don’t have many species of gulls. Actually, in all of Canada, there only are about 20 or so species altogether.
Here in the north, we really have only two which nest here a lot, along with a couple of others which visit us for a time.
There are several species which nest way north of us, but may stray through as they come and go.
The biggest gull in Canada in the Greater Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus). Its wings and back are really jet black, but its head, tail, and underparts are snow white.
A very presentable and distinguished looking gull.
Its size makes it easy to spot, too. This is a big bird! Length is about 30 inches (compare this to the bald eagle, which is around 35 inches).
Its wingspan is about 65 inches—the same as the average osprey.
This big gull nests commonly in the Maritimes, as well as Newfoundland and Labrador. Sometimes it does so in the lower Great Lakes and New England.
Wanderers have been spotted in Baffin Island, Hudson Bay, and so on.
It is not very particular about where it nests but, more often than not, on rocky cliffs or small islands. Nest is nothing much—a shallow depression with a bit of grass and seaweed for comfort.
This bird can be easily identified by its colouring, its large size, and its heavy bill.
There is a small version, the Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus). This is an Old World gull which wanders across the Atlantic to northern North America.
It is about the same size as the Ring-billed Gull, and is quite common here.
That’s the big one. Now here is the smallest gull of all, the Little Gull. With rather rare good sense in the scientific world, it was called Larus minutus, which means little gull.
It is pretty small, too, only about 11 inches long, about the same as a good-sized robin.
If you remember what Bonaparte’s Gull looks like, then you will know quite a bit about this one. Its colour pattern is just about the same.
In the summer, it has a black head, but in the winter, only a bit of a black cap on the back of its head. In summer, it has a dark red bill, but that turns black in the winter.
Its legs are red all the time.
This bird really belongs in Europe. But it does breed, in very small numbers, on the lower Great Lakes, on James Bay, and in northern Michigan and Wisconsin.
It is one of six small gulls with black heads. Small differences can tell them apart, but for sure this is the smallest of them.
Telling them apart is made even harder because the Little Gull tends to hang around with other black-headed gulls.
This one does have quite dark underwings, but all of the others are light gray or white, with black tips.
So, that is the big and little of gulls. Almost the size of an eagle at one end and as small as a robin at the other.
Here in the north, don’t expect to see them very often, though. Maybe once in a while, you’ll be real lucky.
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