Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Least Concern

Laughing Gull (Larus atricilla)


French: Mouette atricille German: Aztekenmöwe Spanish: Gaviota guanaguanare

Larus Atricilla


, 1758,



Some authors place this species and other “hooded gulls” in genus Leucophaeus (see L. modestus). Considered a “structural ancestor” of all other hooded gulls. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. a. megalopterus Bruch, 1855 – breeds locally from SE California S to W Mexico (Jalisco), and from Maine to Florida and Texas, sparsely through E Central America; winters S to S Peru.
  • L. a. atricilla Linnaeus, 1758 – West Indies to Leeward Antilles and Trinidad and islands off Venezuela; also French Guiana (Connétable Is); winters S to N Brazil.
  • Descriptive notes

    36–46 cm; 203–400 g; wingspan 95–120 cm. A medium-sized, slender and elegant gull with a relatively small head and a long, heavy slightly drooping bill,... read more


    Rather silent outside breeding season. A cackling, rather goose-like, laughing, nasal “ha ha ha”.... read more


    Strictly coastal. Breeds on vegetated sandy beaches or islands and saltmarshes (Long I to Virginia... read more

    Food and feeding

    Aquatic invertebrates and insects (beetles, grasshoppers, ants); also fish, particularly in winter, scraps and refuse. Kleptoparasitic on... read more


    Lays mid to late May in N, in late Apr in Florida. Colonies of dozens to 10,000 pairs; high turnover rate. In West Indies nests under... read more


    Post-breeding dispersal is N, followed by movement S. Those breeding in Florida and West Indies... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Global population estimated at 792,000–807,000 individuals (race megalopterus) and 37,700–80,400 individuals (... read more

    Recommended citation

    Burger, J., Gochfeld, M., Garcia, E.F.J. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Laughing Gull (Larus atricilla). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 16 December 2019).