Little Gull Larus minutus

(last update: March 02, 2015)

Amir Ben Dov (Israel)
Igor Deņisov (Latvia)
Mars Muusse (Netherlands)

Little Gull minutus, 1st cycle (2CY), May 31 2013, Sheboygan, WI. Picture: Amar Ayyash.

Plesae visit Amar's blog on Anything Larus, for more gulls.

The species is most commonly seen on the eastern Great Lakes (Erie and Ontario) and on the Niagara River during migration. It's almost always found associating with Bonaparte's Gulls, big or small flocks - no different. The North American Population is estimated at about 400 individuals.

The first documented nesting attempt of LIGU in North America was in Oshawa, Ontario ("Second Marsh") in 1962. Nesting attempts were evidently unsuccessful, but the species still stages here until this day in the largest numbers known in NA. It is not uncommon to have over 30 adults in alternate plumage carrying out their courtship flights over the marsh here in late April. Tyler Hoar, who has been studying LIGUs in North America for over a decade, has on multiple occasions recorded 100+ individuals at the marsh.

The first successful nesting record of Little Gull in North America was in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin in 1975 (Wisconsin Birdlife:  Populations and Distribution, Past and Present, 1991, by Sam Robbins). Incidentally, Manitowoc and Sheboygan County Wisconsin remain among the best locations to see this species on Lake Michigan, but by no means is it an easy find.

2013 seems to be a relatively exceptional year with at least 5 first cycle birds seen together at Sheboygan's North Point Park. Historically, it was not uncommon to encounter a dozen Little Gulls at locations such as Manitowoc and Sheboygan Wisconsin (between the late 1970s through the late 1990s). The decline of this species on the Wisconsin lakefront seems to be directly related to the decrease in Bonaparte's, but even more importantly, the higher water levels at the aforementioned sites make any prospect of nesting here again unlikely. At least in North America, Littles seems to rarely spend more than a few years nesting at any given site before moving on.

This bird has a full tailband, note the molt gap between the primaries and the secondaries. This individual has begun the second prebasic molt.