GULL, Lares, a genus of web-footed birds, of the family brides (q. v.), inhabitants of the Sea-coasts of all parts of the world. The. feet have three toes in front completely united by a web, and a small hind-toe not included in the web, and sometimes altogether wanting. The wings are long and pointed. Gulls have great power of wing, and fly apparently with ease against a Storm, during the continuance of which they generally fly low, whether over sea or land, but in fine weather soar higher in the air, in which seem to delight in performing the most varied and beautiful evolutions. They descend with great rapidity to seize prey from the surface of the water or at a small depth ; but they are not good divers, and the fishes which they catch are chiefly those which, like the herring and others of the same family, swim near the surface. They are very voracious. Their food consists of almost anything animal. Many of them are wholly or partially migratory, breeding in colder regions than those which they inhabit in winter. In general, they lay only two or three eggs, which are large for the size of the bird.
Many of the gulls are frequent visitors of inland districts, ascending rivers, and hov ering over them in quest of prey as over the sea. Sonic of them are also often to be seen in meadows and plowed fields, seeking for worms and other such food. It is a Common notion in Britain that the appearance of galls in inland districts betokens stormy weather. But in America, the in grations of sonic of the species between the northern seas and the gulf of Mexico are performed, not only along the Atlantic coast, but by the great lakes and the valleys of the Ohio and the Mississippi, and a few occasionally remain and breed near these inland waters. Large flocks of a species of gull (L. ser Teens) frequent the lakes of the high table-lands of Peru.
Some at least of the larger gulls break the shells of mollusks by taking them up to a sufficient height in the air, and dropping them on a rock. This interesting fact is attested by Audubon, the American ornithologist, as having come under his own obser vation, and he mentions an instance in which a gull, finding the shell not broken by the fall, carried it up a second and a third time, and each time higher than the former.
The flesh of gulls is rather coarse, but that of the young is in request on many northern coasts as an article of food, and is salted for winter use. The eggs of certain species, such as the black-headed gull, are said to be very palatable, and are collected in great quantities in some places where these birds breed in large numbers.
The plumage of gulls is generally in great part white, variously mixed with slate-color, brown, and black. The white, in some species. assumes a rosy tint in the breeding season ; and the head of some becomes black. The differences of plumage, according to age and season and sex, arc very considerable, and have led to many errors as to species.
One of the most common British species is the BLACK-HEADED GUM, (L. ridibundes), the whole length of which is about 16 in. ; another is the Commox GULL or SEA MEW (L. canes), mostly of a gray color above, and white below, fully 1S in. long; the IIEurtixo Gum, (L. argentates), a still larger species, is common on rocky coasts ; the KITTIWAKE (L. trOlactylets or L. rissa), rather smaller than the first-named species, gray and white, destitute of hind-toe, is plentiful where the coast is girt with rocky precipices, on the narrow ledges of which it makes its nest ; its young and eggs are among the chief objects of pursuit of the rock-fowlers ; the LESSER BLAUK-BACKED GULL (T, fusew), about 23 M. long, is pretty common, at least in the n.; the GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL or WAGEL (b. marines), nearly 30 in. long, is not rare ; and the GLAUCOUS GULL or Bun GOALASTER (L. glances), scarcely inferior to it in size, though by some supposed to DC identical with the great black-backed species, of a pale bluish-gray color above, and white belosO, is it winter visitant from the arctic re$ions. This species seems to have acquired its name of burgomaster from the superiority which,- in virtueof its size and strength, it asserts over most of the smaller birds of the northern seas, compelling them to relinquish prey at its approach. Some of the British species of gull are also common in North America, as the lIgnifixo Gum, and the GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL and the KITTIWAKE; but the COMMON AMERICAN GULL (L. zonorhyuchue) is not found on the eastern shores of the Atlantic.