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Terns Gulls and Relatives: Laridae

Physical Characteristics

Gulls, terns, and their relatives vary between 8 and 32 inches (20 to 81 centimeters) in length and between 1.6 and 74 ounces (46 to 2,100 grams) in weight. Gulls and terns generally have white bellies and gray or black backs. Males and females are similar in both size and coloration. Young birds, however, are usually spotted or streaked to help them blend in with their environments. During the breeding season, some gulls develop a pink or cream colored patch on the breast. Gulls have heavy bodies and long wings. Terns have narrower, longer bodies and long, slender, pointed wings. Their bills are slender and pointed. Many terns develop a black crown on top of the head during the breeding season.

Skimmers have heavy bodies and long, narrow wings. Their bills are large and laterally compressed, flattened from left to right. In skimmers, males are often significantly larger than females. Most skimmers have black backs and white bellies, although during the breeding season the legs may become cream colored.

Skuas and jaegers (YAY-gerz) have body shapes similar to that of gulls, but have heavy, hooked bills. They are exceptionally powerful fliers. Females are larger than males.

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Animal Life ResourceBirdsTerns Gulls and Relatives: Laridae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Gulls, Terns, Relatives, And People - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, CONSERVATION STATUS