U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Published in Am. Midl. Nat. 163:442–454.


Laughing gulls (Larus atricilla) are commonly found in many areas of North America and little is known about their diet, particularly in coastal-urban interfaces where gull-aircraft collisions can be a serious concern. The objective of this study was to describe and quantify the consumption of terrestrial invertebrates by laughing gulls at a coastal-urban interface in the northeastern United States. We examined the stomach contents of laughing gulls (n = 1053) collected during wildlife damage management operations at John F. Kennedy International Airport during the summers of 2003 and 2004. Terrestrial invertebrates consumed by laughing gulls represented 2 taxonomic phyla, 4 classes, 15 orders and 40 families. Beetles (Coleoptera) and ants (Hymenoptera) were the most common terrestrial invertebrates consumed by laughing gulls. We found evidence of temporal (i.e., monthly) variation in the frequency of occurrence of terrestrial insects in laughing gull diets. Laughing gull gender and age did not influence the frequency of occurrence of terrestrial insects in gull diets. Terrestrial environments (e.g., areas of turfgrass) appear to provide important foraging locations and food resources for laughing gulls in coastal-urban areas. This information is important for developing effective management approaches to reduce human-gull conflicts, such as gull-aircraft collisions at coastal airports.