Photo: Laure Wilson Neish
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Characteristics and Range The Western Gull is among the largest of North America's gulls but has a breeding range restricted to the Pacific Coast of the United States and numbers only about 40,000 pairs (Pierotti and Annett 1995). It hybridizes frequently with the Glaucous-winged Gull, particularly in the northern part of the Western Gull's range, producing offspring often intermediate in appearance between the two species (Wahl et al. 2005).
Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat The Western Gull occurs mainly as an uncommon migrant and winter visitor to southwestern coastal British Columbia, more scarcely north to Haida Gwaii and inland as far the eastern limit of the lower Fraser Valley. Campbell et al. (1990) detailed rare instances of mixed pairs of Western and Glaucous-winged Gulls breeding in Glaucous-winged Gull colonies around the southern end of Vancouver Island, but concluded that pure Western Gull pairs were undocumented and so excluded it as a breeding species in British Columbia The Atlas did not record any pure Western Gull pairs, or individuals hybridizing with Glaucous-winged Gulls, despite observers being alert to the possibility, and knowing how to distinguish pure Western Gulls from hybrids (Martell 2009).
In its breeding range south of British Columbia, the Western Gull nests on rocky islands, offshore rocks, and isolated piers. The species forages at beaches, garbage dumps, over offshore waters, and even inland on ploughed fields.
Conservation and Recommendations The Western Gull is not of conservation concern in British Columbia, but detailed study of Glaucous-winged Gull colonies would clarify if and how frequently Western Gulls attempt to breed in the province.
Recommended citation: Siddle, C.R. 2015. Western Gull in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. http://www.birdatlas.bc.ca/accounts/speciesaccount.jsp?sp=WEGU&lang=en [04 Mar 2024]
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