AskDefine | Define seagull

Dictionary Definition

seagull n : mostly white aquatic bird having long pointed wings and short legs [syn: gull, sea gull]

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  1. any of several white seabirds of the family Laridae having long pointed wings and short legs

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Extensive Definition

Gulls (often informally Seagulls) are birds in the family Laridae. They are most closely related to the terns (family Sternidae) and only distantly related to auks, and skimmers, and more distantly to the waders. Most gulls belong to the large genus Larus.
They are typically medium to large birds, usually grey or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They have stout, longish bills, and webbed feet. Gull species range in size from the Little Gull, at 120 g (4.2 oz) and 29 cm (11.5 inches), to the Great Black-backed Gull, at 1.75 kg (3.8 lbs) and 76 cm (30 inches).
Most gulls, particularly Larus species, are ground nesting carnivores, which will take live food or scavenge opportunistically. The live food often includes crabs and small fish. Apart from the kittiwakes, gulls are typically coastal or inland species, rarely venturing far out to sea. The large species take up to four years to attain full adult plumage, but two years is typical for small gulls.
Gulls — the larger species in particular — are resourceful and highly-intelligent birds, demonstrating complex methods of communication and a highly-developed social structure; for example, many gull colonies display mobbing behaviour, attacking and harassing would-be predators and other intruders. In addition, certain species (e.g. the Herring Gull) have exhibited tool use behaviour. Many species of gull have learned to co-exist successfully with humans and have thrived in human habitats. Others rely on kleptoparasitism to get their food.
Two terms are in common usage among gull enthusiasts for subgroupings of the gulls:
Hybridisation between species of gull occurs quite frequently, although to varying degrees depending on the species involved (see Hybridisation in gulls). The taxonomy of the large white-headed gulls is particularly complicated.
In common usage, members of various gull species are often referred to as sea gulls or seagulls. This name is used by the layman to refer to a common local species or all gulls in general, and has no fixed taxonomic meaning.
The American Ornithologists' Union combines Sternidae, Stercorariidae, and Rhynchopidae as subfamilies in the family Laridae, but recent research indicates that this is incorrect.

List of gulls in taxonomic order

Genus Larus
Genus Rissa
Genus Pagophila
Genus Rhodostethia
Genus Xema
Genus Creagrus
The Laridae are known from fossil evidence since the Early Oligocene, some 30-33 mya. A fossil gull from the Middle to Late Miocene of Cherry County, USA is placed in the prehistoric genus Gaviota; apart from this and the undescribed Early Oligocene fossil, all prehistoric species were tentatively assigned to the modern genus Larus. Among those of them that have been confirmed as gulls, "Larus" elegans and "L." totanoides from the Late Oligocene/Early Miocene of SE France have since been separated in Laricola.




  • Grant, Peter J. (1986) Gulls: a guide to identification ISBN 0-85661-044-5
  • Howell, Steve N. G. and Jon Dunn (2007) Gulls of the Americas ISBN 0-618-72641-1
  • Olsen, Klaus Malling & Larsson, Hans (1995): Terns of Europe and North America. Christopher Helm, London. ISBN 0-7136-4056-1

External links

seagull in Breton: Gouelan
seagull in Catalan: Laridae
seagull in Danish: Måge
seagull in German: Möwen
seagull in Esperanto: Mevo
seagull in Estonian: Kajaklased
seagull in Spanish: Gaviota
seagull in Basque: Kaio
seagull in Persian: مرغ نوروزی
seagull in French: Goéland
seagull in Western Frisian: Seefûgels
seagull in Scottish Gaelic: Faoileag
seagull in Korean: 갈매기
seagull in Croatian: Galebi
seagull in Ido: Muevo
seagull in Italian: Laridae
seagull in Hebrew: שחף
seagull in Swahili (macrolanguage): Shakwe
seagull in Lithuanian: Kiriniai
seagull in Hungarian: Sirályfélék
seagull in Dutch: Meeuwen (vogels)
seagull in Japanese: カモメ族 (Sibley)
seagull in Norwegian: Måser
seagull in Norwegian Nynorsk: Måsefamilien
seagull in Narom: Mauve
seagull in Occitan (post 1500): Laridae
seagull in Polish: Mewy
seagull in Portuguese: Gaivota (ave)
seagull in Russian: Чайковые
seagull in Sicilian: Laridae
seagull in Finnish: Lokit
seagull in Swedish: Måsar och trutar
seagull in Thai: นกนางนวล
seagull in Turkish: Martı
seagull in Walloon: Måwete
seagull in Chinese: 鷗
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