photo by Phil Swanson
L 17 1/2″ (45 cm) W 48″ (122 cm)
Song or calls:
Listen (NGPC audio)
High, shrill “ky-eow” squeal.
Description: Sexes similar. Adult is pale gray above and white below; distinctive black band around end of yellow bill; pale eyes; yellow legs; and black primaries are tipped with two white spots. Winter adult is similar but has brown streaking on head. Second winter birds are like winter adults but with more extensive brown streaking, and white tail usually has some black terminal spots. First winter bird is streaked with brown on the entire head and nape, gray back, brown wings, spotting on breast and flanks, and black tip instead of ring around bill. Juvenile is overall streaked with brown, lacks gray back, and has a mostly black bill.
Habitat: Migrants can be found on a variety of watery habitats including lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and marshes.
Where in Nebraska: Common spring and fall migrant across the state. Occasional summer resident. Nearest breeding in North Dakota.
Fun Facts: Show preference for magnetic bearings that lead them to their fall migration at only two days old. Often changes mates with nesting neighbor of previous year; resulting in strong nest site tenacity.
Additional Information: Misnamed as a “sea gull”, as birds frequently follow farm plows or scatter over fields after a heavy rain to eat earthworms.