Laughing Gull Larus atricilla


Justification of Red List category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Trend justification
The overall population trend is increasing, although some populations have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006). This species has undergone a large and statistically significant increase over the last 40 years in North America (344% increase over 40 years, equating to a 45.2% increase per decade; data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count: Butcher and Niven 2007).

Distribution and population

The Laughing Gull is found in North, Central and South America. It breeds year-round on the eastern coast of Mexico, and on the western coast of the three continents from North Carolina (USA) down to Venezuala including the Carribean. It also breeds seasonally on the eastern coast of the USA from North Carolina to Maine, wintering from Mexico down to Peru, and down to the mouth of the Amazon (Brazil) (del Hoyo et al. 1996).


This species is strictly coastal when breeding, being found on vegetated sandy beaches, islands, salt-marshes, and on the tops of rocky islands. It lays from mid- to late May in the north, and in late April in Florida. Colonies form from dozens of individuals to 10,000 pairs. Its diet is comprised of aquatic invertebrates and insects, but also fish, scraps and refuse. It can be kleptoparasitic on Brown Pelicans (del Hoyo et al. 1996).


At present the species is not believed to be impacted by any factors likely to pose a genuine threat to populations of this species.


Text account compilers
Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Bennett, S., Butchart, S., Fjagesund, T., Martin, R.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Larus atricilla. Downloaded from on 01/12/2023.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 01/12/2023.