Look for this unmistakeable gull at Good Harbor Beach. It has been here for several days. You can’t miss his distinguished black head and deepest slate gray wings. If lucky, he may even laugh his funny laugh for you. This is a first for me, seeing a Laughing Gull at Good Harbor Beach. When I was a child we would see them often at my Grandparent’s beach on Cape Cod. If you have seen Laughing Gulls on Cape Ann please write and let us know.
Mass Audubon’s historic status on the Laughing Gull reports that this smallest of our breeding gulls has had a difficult time reproducing in Massachusetts. In the mid 1800s, Laughing Gulls reigned over Muskeget Island, off the Nantucket coast, but within a 25-year period, commercial eggers reduced their population to but only a few nesting pairs. “By 1923, however, protective actions taken by the keeper of the island’s lifesaving station helped the Laughing Gull population rebound to the thousands. Further bolstered by the protection afforded by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, Laughing Gulls expanded their colony at Muskeget Island to 20,000 pairs by the 1940s. Unfortunately, a preponderance of Herring Gulls also benefited from the protection of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, as well as from the increase in food available to them at open landfills at that time.” The rise of the Herring Gull has ultimately led to the severe decline of breeding Laughing Gulls in Massachusetts and today there are thought to be only about 500 pairs. Imagine, from 20,000 pairs to only 500!
One interesting fact is that not only do they nest in Dune Grass, but also have a penchant for dense patches of Poison Ivy. The Good Harbor Beach Laughing Gull has been foraging on crustaceans and invertebrates at the tide pools.