A guide to the food-stealing birds we all love and hate

While we all know these seagulls, most do not know that they are called Laughing Gulls.
Photo provided by

While we all know these seagulls, most do not know that they are called Laughing Gulls. Photo provided by

Mario Shontz, Staff Writer

Have you ever had your sandwich stolen by a seagull at the beach? If so, you are not alone. As residents of a coastal community, we are familiar with these pesky birds. However, there is a misconception that the so called “seagulls” we encounter on a daily basis are of only one variety, and only live by the beach, but this is far from the truth. Instead, there are over 50 species of gulls found throughout the world, each with an individual size, coloring pattern, and appearance depending on their environment. Let’s explore just a few of these varieties from not only in Florida, but from around the globe.

  1. Laughing Gulls

The Laughing Gull, named for its signature call, is a variety of seagull well known to us. With a black head and red bill, they are easily identifiable. They live mainly on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, ranging from Maine down through Florida and Texas and Mexico.


  1. Swallow-tailed Gull

The Swallow-tailed gull is endemic to a place we have all heard of—the Galápagos Islands. This variety is known for its night vision, with eyes that are larger in size and volume than those of any other gull. Thank you, Charles Darwin.


  1. California Gull

The California Gull, my personal favorite, is a larger variety of gull with a wingspan of up to 51 inches. Their head is white with a yellow bill, and their tail and wings are a dark grey. These birds have an interesting way to catch flies; they start at one end of a swarm of flies sitting on the beach and run through the flies with their head down and bill open, snapping up flies as they fly. Talk about productive, right?


There are many more varieties of gulls than the three listed above, so if you are genuinely interested in studying these fascinating creatures, I would recommend taking up bird-watching. Most likely, though, you will continue to see them as annoying birds that stole your favorite sandwich yesterday at the beach… and that’s okay too.