Gulls and Terns of Columbia County, Oregon

The scavengers of our shores, gulls are naturally predators but also eat dead fish, frequent garbage dumps, and steal food from humans. Some species prefer the coasts while others frequent inland waters, and a few have adapted to parking lots and other artificial environments. The more acrobatic terns still focus themselves on diving for fish in open water.

Western gull oregon columbia county
Western Gull – Large gull with bulbous bill, dark eye, dark gray back, and pink legs. Tends to stay within 100 miles of coast, venturing away even less in breeding season. (photo © BJ Stacey)
Herring Gull oregon columbia county
American Herring Gull – Large gull with medium bill, yellow eye, lighter back, and pink legs. A common winter resident often seen in garbage dumps. (photo © gregslak)
Thayer's Gull oregon columbia county
Thayer’s (Iceland) Gull – Similar to Herring Gull but rounder head, darker (not black) eye and lighter (though variable) wingtips. Often seen in landfills. (photo © Carol McDougall)
Ring-billed Gull breeding oregon columbia county
Ring-billed Gull – Smaller gull with dark ring on slender bill, yellow eye, and yellow legs. One of our most common species, breeding inland and wintering on the coast. (photo © Micah Carrick)
California Gull oregon columbia county
California Gull – Slender bill with red spot, black eye, yellowish-gray legs. Winters here while breeding inland, but many non-breeding birds stay here year round. (photo © Robin Gwen Agarwal)
Mew Gull nonbreeding oregon columbia county
Mew (Common) Gull – Little gull with round head, petite yellow bill with no red spot, dark eye, yellow legs. Common resident outside of breeding season. (photo © Andy Frank)
Glaucous-winged Gull oregon columbia county
Glaucous-winged Gull – The gray wingtips with white dots set this pink-legged gull apart. Coastal species but common along Columbia River. An opportunistic feeder. (photo © Marissa Gibson)
Glaucous Gull – This huge arctic gull has distinctly white wingtips. Young birds have bill tipped in black. Rarely seen here and only in winter. (photo © Alexander Yakovlev)
Sabine's Gull nonbreeding oregon columbia county
Sabine’s Gull – Small dainty gull, partial dark head become full hood in breeding season. Grey back and extensive black on primary feathers. Only rarely seen, usually in fall migration. (photo © nmrvelj)
Franklin's Gull nonbreeding oregon columbia county
Franklin’s Gull – Has full black hood in breeding. White eye crescents distinct. Larger than Sabine’s with less black on primaries. Breeds in inland wetlands, uncommon visitor here. (photo © Mike Patterson)
Bonaparte's Gull nonbreeding oregon columbia county
Bonaparte’s Gull – Very small gull. Dark circle behind eye becomes black hood in breeding. Back lighter than Sabine’s with narrow dark bar on wings and black-tipped primaries. (photo © Mike Patterson)
Heermann's Gull oregon columbia county
Heermann’s Gull – Gray body and red bill with black tip. A beach gull, very rare visitor inland. It has seen its breeding grounds decimated and is now a Sensitive Species. (photo © tnewman)
Forster's Tern oregon columbia county
Forster’s Tern – A small tern with slender bill, deeply forked tail, and white belly. A freshwater species that breeds inland. Rarely seen in our county. (photo © mwbirdco)
Common Tern oregon columbia county
Common Tern – Very similar to Forster’s Tern but with slightly more slender bill and gray belly. Tends to come through our region only in early fall migration. (photo © Rodamu)
Caspian Tern oregon columbia county
Caspian Tern – World’s largest tern, with huge red bill, black wingtips, and only shallowly forked tail. An Oregon Sensitive Species, passes through our region more than other terns. (photo © Nature Ali)
Parasitic Jaeger oregon columbia county
Parasitic Jaeger – This gray bird is sleeker with more narrow wings than gulls and flies more acrobatically as it attacks gulls and terns for their food. Coastal species rarely seen inland. (photo © Raymond VanBuskirk)

Also seen passing through Columbia County on very rare occasions are Slaty-backed Gull, Little Gull, Black-legged Kittiwake, Long-tailed Jaeger, and Cassin’s Auklet.

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