Seagulls: different species at Great Lakes vs. Atlantic coast?

Is the most common gull around the Great Lakes area different from what gull hangs out around the Carolinas coastal waters?

I have fond childhood memories of feeding the gulls at Myrtle Beach. Now as a grown-ass adult I have recently moved to western Michigan, and there are HUGE seagulls around here.

Things are bigger in childhood memories, right? If I’m seeing the same birds now, they should seem comparatively itty-bitty … but the gulls here look like they could fly off with me and/or simply eat me!

Neither are laughing gulls - I know them and their hooded heads. (And, naturally, their rather paranoia inducing cry. Who’s laughing at me?!?) These birds here make the same typical seagull call I remember from Myrtle Beach - raucous, LOUD chants, especially when tasty food has been procured.

I cannot give a knowledgeable answer, but I can say what I do know. Gulls (not all of which stay by the sea) are what is called a ring species. There is a species in England that is the same species as the one in the Atlantic states and provinces, which is the same as a species that continues acress the US and Canada to Alaska and then is the same as a species across the Bering strait in Siberia, which is the same as one across Asia and Europe and continues into England. But that species is not the same as the original one.

A mathematician would describe it as a Riemannian species, at least two sheeted.

First off, there is no such thing as a Seagull! :wink:

Here on the S end of Lake Mich, Ring Billed Gulls are by far the most common. I’ve seen them - as well as Herring and others, on both ocean coasts and the Gulf. One area of possible confusion is the changing colors over the 1st 3 or so years of life. What might look like different species, could well be immatures.

And you know, of course, why seagulls don’t fly over the bay, dontcha? :smiley:

It could be you are seeing great black backed gulls which are notably larger than the typical herring gull. Black backed gulls are not as common and Myrtle Beach is near the southern end of their range. Do you notice if the gulls around you have a red spot on their beaks?

But do gulls have addition and multiplication operations, with multiplication distributive over addition?

But do gulls have addition and multiplication operations, with multiplication distributive over addition?

There are around 26 species of gull found in the United States, and they range in size from the tiny Little Gull to the hulking Great Black-backed Gull. Some of the smaller species have black hoods in breeding plumage, while the larger species, known as “white-headed gulls,” do not. Here’s some of them, along with the related terns.

Some gulls, like Herring Gulls, are widespread, being found on both coasts and on inland waters. Some, like the Greater Black-backed, are mostly eastern, while others, like the Western, are western.

Ornithologists don’t use the term “seagull” because many species live primarily on freshwater. Two of the most common species inland are the hooded Franklin’s Gull and the white-headed California Gull. The latter species is renowned for saving the crops of early Mormon settlers from a plague of grasshoppers, and is why it’s the state bird of Utah.

The commonest large gull around Lake Michigan would be the Herring Gull, which also is the commonest species on the east coast. As mentioned, Ring-billed Gulls, which are smaller, are also common in both areas. Great Black-backed Gulls occur, but are much less common than on the Atlantic Coast. Among hooded gulls, Franklin’s would be much more common than the very similar Laughing Gull of the east coast.

The size distribution of gulls on the Great Lakes and the Carolinas is similar, except the largest species, the Great Black-backed, is more common in the latter. So if you are perceiving that the ones on Lake Michigan are larger it’s most likely due to faulty memory.

Laughing gulls are much smaller than Black Backed, Ring Billed or Herring gulls and ar everywhere. I can’t say that their laugh is my favorite sound at 6:00 AM.

eBird is your friend.

Bar chart bird abundance in Berrien Co., Michigan. Herring & ring-billed’s are indeed the two most common, but the laughing gull’s close relative the Bonaparte [yes, black head in breeding season] can be seen in the warmer months.

Speaking of gulls, does anyone have any tips on distinguishing a Herring Gull from a Ring-billed Gull, especially at a long distance or in flight. The presence or absence of the ring on the bill is sometimes difficult to ascertain. At least for me it is.

Gulls can be an enormous pain in the ass to ID between a general similarity of color patterns, varying juvenile plumage and widespread hybridization. They tend to be attractive targets for only the most OCD of birders ;). But there are two broad groups in gulls that act as useful separators and in this case it helps.

Herring gulls have pink legs, ring-billed gulls have yellow legs :).

Ring-billed gulls are also a bit smaller and a little daintier in build. Think medium-sized gulls vs. a large-sized herring gull, but that can be tougher at a great distance. So go for the legs, just be aware it might be a different species than either.

Here in Panama we get vagrant gulls from both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. So it can be an enormous pain to try to figure out what some oddball is, because you basically have to consider gulls from nearly the entire world. We recently had both a California Gull and a Western Gull turn up for the first time, which required careful study of leg color, back color, and bill shape.

While the idea of ring species remains conceptually valid, there’s some major doubt on whether the herring gull constitutes an example of one.

Right. Ernst Mayr proposed the Herring Gull as an example of a ring species in 1942, and used this as an illustration of the processes involved in his Biological Species Concept. However, the modern tendency is to demand far more evidence of interbreeding and hybridization in order to consider two populations members of the same species than in Mayr’s day. Most of the “subspecies” in this group are now considered full species, and some even split North American and European Herring Gulls as separate species. As the article indicates, genetic studies have demonstrated that the situation is far more complex than previously believed (as they almost invariably do).

Growing up on a peninsula with Lake Michigan on one side and Green Bay (part of Lake Michigan) on the other and noticing the gulls didn’t care which shore they were hanging around, that joke never really worked for me.

Thanks for the link, Colibri! I haven’t been able to see the birds from any angle except directly below since starting this thread, so I can’t confirm how dark their backs might be. I will endeavor to see the leg color, too. They hang around the Meijer sometimes.

This was an informative thread!

If you can take a photo I can ID them.

Ring-billed gulls are the most common ones in Montreal. When I went to Vancouver, it was glaucous-winged gulls, which are quite a bit bigger.
NYC has laughing gulls.
Not sure what kind of gull is most common here in Hawkesbury.

What is with gulls and garbage dumps? Living in the middle of the country, that’s where I see them. Both the city landfill where I grew up (Belle Fourche, SD) and here (Gillette, WY). Garbage gulls galore.

Gulls are scavengers. While they eat fish and other animals they catch, they eat anything else they can get including carrion and food waste. And french fries. McDonald’s parking lots are one of the best places to look for gulls besides dumps.