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Gray Gull Leucophaeus modestus Scientific name definitions

Fernando Medrano, Ignacio Escobar Gutiérrez, and Rodrigo Silva
Version: 2.0 — Published December 23, 2022
Revision Notes

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Introduction

Gray Gull is one of the most common species on the Humboldt Current. However, for decades it was a mystery where this species nested. Birds were seen copulating on the coast, vocalizing, and displaying, but no nests were found. Given the many thousands present on shore, it was a paradox that no colonies had been discovered. It was not until the early 1970s that it was confirmed that this gull breeds deep in the extreme desert of northern Chile. It uses flat areas in the desert, where often no measurable rain falls in a year, a decade, or more. Lacking the basic elements for life, including water, these breeding areas are surprisingly safe because there are few to no predators there. Because the gulls are highly mobile, they can commute from the inland colonies to the sea daily and provide food to the chicks. It is thought that their gray plumage is an adaptation to living in hot, sunny places, because melanin keeps feathers from becoming faded and weakened by light. The dark plumage may also be used to radiate heat more efficiently compared to translucent white plumage; most other desert-nesting gulls, even those that are not closely related, are also gray.

Distribution of the Gray Gull - Range Map
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  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Gray Gull

Recommended Citation

Medrano, F., I. Escobar Gutiérrez, and R. Silva (2022). Gray Gull (Leucophaeus modestus), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.grygul.02