Laridae – Gulls, terns & skimmers

One of the most widely distributed families in the world

Members of this family are a versatile group of primarily airborne birds that may be found all over the planet.

One of the remarkable characteristics of Laridae members is their ability to thrive in various environments across the planet. From inland rivers to high Arctic and sub-Antarctic islands, from temperate and tropical seacoasts to interior marshes and deserts, Laridae birds have demonstrated remarkable adaptability to diverse ecosystems.

Gulls and terns, the most well-known members of the family, are ubiquitous and can be found worldwide. They inhabit a variety of coastal and inland habitats, including beaches, estuaries, lakes, rivers, and even urban areas. Skimmers, on the other hand, prefer moderate to tropical climates, where they are often found along coastlines and riverbanks, skimming the water’s surface with their unique bill morphology to catch fish.

In terms of their appearance, Laridae birds exhibit a range of colors, predominantly white and black, with various hues in between. Their plumage is often adapted for camouflage and effective hunting. For instance, the white underside of many Laridae species helps them blend into the sky when diving for fish, making them less visible to their prey from below.

Beyond their physical characteristics, Laridae birds are known for their diverse foraging behaviors and feeding strategies. While gulls are opportunistic omnivores, scavenging for food along coastlines and urban areas, terns are specialized fish hunters, employing agile aerial maneuvers to catch their prey. Skimmers use their unique elongated lower mandibles to skim the water’s surface for small fish, while skuas and jaegers are adept predators, preying on other seabirds, fish, and even small mammals.