Adult. Note: pale eye, sooty nape, dark bill band with red tip, and yellow legs.
© Gregg Thompson
  • Adult. Note: pale eye, sooty nape, and dark tail band.
  • Adult. Note: pale eye, sooty nape, dark bill band with red tip, and yellow legs.
  • Adult. Note: pale eye, sooty nape, and dark bill band with red tip.
  • Adult in flight. Note: black band on tail.

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Black-tailed Gull

Larus crassirostris
This is a large and highly varied group of birds that do not have many outward similarities. Most are water birds that feed on invertebrates or small aquatic creatures. The order is well represented in Washington, with seven families:
The family Laridae is made up of birds closely associated with water. Distributed throughout the world, representatives of this family nest on every continent, including Antarctica. Most are long-lived birds, many of which do not breed until they are three or four years old. Most are colony nesters and nest on the ground. Clutch size is generally small, varying from one to four eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs and help feed the young. The young typically hatch covered with down and stay in the nest for a few days, after which they leave the nest but stay nearby. Most, especially in Washington, raise a single brood a year. This group is known for its elaborate displays in the air and on the ground.

The Washington representatives of this family can be split into two groups, or subfamilies. The adaptable gulls are the most familiar. Sociable in all seasons, they are mainly coastal, but a number of species also nest inland. Many—but not all—are found around people. Gulls have highly variable foraging techniques and diets. Terns forage in flight, swooping to catch fish or insects. They dive headfirst into the water for fish. Although they are likely to be near water, they spend less time swimming than gulls.

    General Description

    This very rare visitor from East Asia is about the same size as a Ring-billed Gull. In adult plumage, which it attains in four years, the mantle is a bit darker than that of the Western Gull and the tail shows a prominent dark band just above the white tail tip. The yellow bill has a red ring close to the tip with a black ring behind it. The eye and the legs are yellow. The head is strongly streaked with brown in winter. Immature birds are more difficult to identify; consult a good field guide.

    Black-tailed Gull is found along coastlines from far eastern Russia south to China, Japan, and Korea. It is a vagrant to Alaska and also farther south along the coasts of North America as far as the U.S.–Mexico border, mostly on the Atlantic side. Washington’s only accepted record was from the mouth of Willapa Bay (Pacific County), where it was seen intermittently from August to October 2004. California also has a single record, as does British Columbia. There are none for Oregon.

    Revised June 2007

    Federal Endangered Species ListAudubon/American Bird Conservancy Watch ListState Endangered Species ListAudubon Washington Vulnerable Birds List

    View full list of Washington State's Species of Special Concern