One of the more diminutive gulls to be found out here on the West Coast, the Bonaparte Gull is fun to watch as it skims food from the waters surface while flying or wading in the shallows. While it is one of the more common gulls, I see it rarely enough that I am happy every time that I spot one. Occasionally I spot a single one, but more often I come across it in a small group of three or four.
Its smaller size makes it much more maneuverable in the air, bouncing and dancing as it darts from side to side. It has a grace that is missing from many of the larger gulls.
It is fairly distinctive from the other gulls that are common (there are a couple of rarer birds that look similar), so even those that do not know gulls can often identify it with only a little practice. It is smaller with a black bill. Its head is usually all black (depending on the season) or white, with a single black spot where a person would guess its ear to be. It has black edging on the front and back of its wings.