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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Bonaparte's Gull -- Larus philadelphia

RANGE: Breeds from western and central Alaska and central Yukon to northern Manitoba, south to southern British Columbia, central Saskatchewan, southern Manitoba, and southern James Bay. Occurs in summer (nonbreeding birds) south to coastal areas in California and New England, and in interior to the Great Lakes. Winters from Washington south along the Pacific Coast into Mexico and from the Great Lakes south through the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys to the Gulf Coast.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: Inhabits coastal and interior lowlands, primarily black fly-infested muskeg swamps in taiga up to treeline. Outside the breeding season it occurs on freshwater lakes, rivers, and sloughs, wet meadows, flooded fields, estuaries, shallow coastal waters, bays, and inlets.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Ponds or lakes in swampy muskeg flanked by short to medium conifers.

NEST: Nests in dispersed colonies or noncolonially, from 4 to 20 feet above ground in branches or stumps of spruce, fir, and tamarack, and near water. May also nest in reeds, on mudflats of temporary potholes, and in clumps of bulrushes.

FOOD: Forages in a variety of habitats associated with water, such as marshy ponds, freshwater marshes, rivers, lakes, estuaries, salt marshes, beaches, bays, and open ocean. Eats small fishes, insects, spiders, snails, crustaceans, and marine worms.

REFERENCES: Bent 1921, Clapp et al. 1983, Cramp and Simmons 1983.

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