Gulls & Terns

California Gull, adult
(1st yr. Western Gull in rear)

KMHRP is a GREAT place to see, watch, study, and learn gulls.

A note to "non-birders" ... there is NO SUCH thing as a "seagull" ... ("There ain't no animal," as the old saying goes.) That is a poetic lay term too often used, which has no scientific meaning whatsoever. They are simply gulls.

Bonaparte's Gull, first winter

Of course many gulls live inland, very far from the sea. And in most of the ocean (the sea), there are no gulls. They are littoral (nearshore) often where the food is.

They are also common at dumps feeding on human's refuse, and in fact some may have increased in numbers as our trash piles up. Birders often go to dumps to study gulls. Yes they're a weird lot (birders, not gulls).

Mew Gull (brachyrynchus), first winter

At KMHRP many gulls come over from the harbor daily to bathe and drink in freshwater, though they have a gland which allows them to desalinate saltwater, like most seabirds.

Ring-billed Gull, adult

Some 14 species of gulls have been found at KMHRP, and surely others occurred un-detected! Afternoons are best for them at the park. The boat ramp on the west side near the maintenence building is a good spot. (The 2nd entrance (left) south of PCH on Vermont.) We offer a selection of common types here for you to peruse.

Herring Gull, 2nd winter

Note most gulls take 3-4 years to acquire adult plumage. Most start out rather mottled brown, and each year during molts some of the brown feathers are replaced with gray and white feathers of adults, until finally they become the pretty gray and white birds we all know.

A few are white with dark markings they lose with age. Here we call out ages to help show this. They are "juveniles" their first few months of life. A "first winter" bird is in its first winter and about 4-8 months old. A second winter bird is about 16-20 months old. And so on. Large gulls take 4 years to mature.

Western Gull, 2nd winter

Western Gull, 3rd winter

Western Gull, dark southern "wymani" adults
(4+ years old) left and right
Light (northern) bird not full adult yet

Glaucous-winged Gull, May

Immature Herring (left) and Western Gulls

Thayer's Gull, light 1st winter

California Gull, immature

TERNS are more pointed of wing and bill, and trimmer and sleeker than gulls. They do not scavange food like gulls do, but make aerial dives into the water to catch live prey, usually small fish. Note their more pointed bills.

The endangered Least Tern used to nest at the site. The last 3 decades it has continued to bring its young here from Terminal Island nest sites, to teach them how to fish in the calm waters of the lake.

Adult Least Tern
Note: Yellow bill, forked tail (tail streamers),
gray upperparts with narrow black leading edge
to outerwing, white forehead, black crown and eyeline

Juvenile Least Tern
Note: Sandy brownish on back, crown, and wing coverts
Lots of black on outerwing; short squarish tail; dark bill; small size

Least Tern - 4 juveniles, 1 adult
resting on floating bird platform

A juvenile Least Tern resting on the dam
is one the annual thrills at KMHRP

Forster's Tern

Caspian Tern (with red bill)

Black Skimmer is a relative to gulls and terns.
During periods of locally high sea surface
temperatures, they have rarely strayed from their
prefered marine environment to KMHRP,
including in July and August '03.