gulls and terns

Songs and calls of some New York State birds

Gulls and Terns

All sound files are mp3 files.
Images are adapted from drawings by Chester A. Reed, B. S. in Chapman.

Greater Black-backed Gull
Larus marinus
Long Island, August 1997

Herring Gull
Larus argentatus
Damariscotta Falls, Maine, April 1998.
Long Island, September 1999.
Heh-heh-heh, YOW, heh-heh-heh, etc.
Long Island, April 2004.

      Immature Herring Gull begging.
Long Island, August 1997.

Ring-billed Gull
Larus delawarensis
Feeding vocalizations. At low tide Ring-billed Gulls mass at the shoreline, standing in one or two inches of water and treading the bottom, presumably to stir up food (they peck at the water from time to time). There is a lot of squabbling over territory.
Table talk I
Table talk II
Table talk III
Long Island, January 1999

Laughing Gull
Larus atricilla
Hah-hah-hah, hooh-hooh, hah-hah-hah
"A high, long-drawn laugh" (Chapman)
Chatham, Massachusetts, April 2002

Bonaparte's Gull
Larus philadephia
"A nasal cheer or cherr" (Peterson)
(interpolations: Swan take-off, Herring Gull, Western Sandpiper)
Long Island, April 2004

Common Tern
Sterna hirundo
"A vibrant, purring tearrr" (Chapman)
Long Island, August 1997.

Courting vocalizations. The courtship scene for Common Terns is somewhere between the Debutante Cotillion and the Roller Derby. In this instance, about 100 Terns are standing on a steadily shrinking sand bar. At any one time five or six are undertaking ritual bathing in the adjacent shallows. At any one time three or four couples are engaged in the "stand on my back" phase of courtship. A few fish are served, but it is nothing like the inflexible protocol of the Little Terns (see below). The two main sounds are
tearr, tearr, tearr, ... (males?)
a rapid yip, yip, yip, ... (females?).
Here is how they sound together.
Long Island, May 2001.

Little Tern
Sterna albifrons
(Least Tern). Courting vocalizations. Little Tern courtship is mediated by fish.
Females stand on the beach
("I'm here, I'm here!")
keeping their competitors at a distance.
("Get away from me, you hussy!")
A male flies in with a minnow draped in his beak
("I've got a fish, I've got a fish!")
and finds a female who will accept it.
("I've got a fish!" "I'm here!")
The male flies back out to sea.
("Yes yes yes she took my fish!")
Long Island, July and August 1997.

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Tony Phillips
Math Dept Stony Brook University
tony at
November 27 2017