California Gulls nesting at the Great Salt Lake
Although the California gull (Lams californicus) is the state bird of Utah, the history and status of colonies nesting at Great Salt Lake have not been well documented. Stansbury (1852) reported gulls nesting in 1850, and the population has been studied sporadically since then. This paper summarizes several population surveys in 1980s. The California Gull was found to be a highly adaptable species. Despite a 10-foot fluctuation in lake level, which led to major changes in the availability of breeding sites and in the size of individual colonies in the 1980s, the number of breeding adults at Great Salt Lake has remained essentially constant at about 75,000-80,000 birds through that decade and, apparently, since Behle’s 1931 survey. This is surprising, in view of the major population increase this species has undergone in the twentieth century (Conover 1983) and an apparent increase in winter population at Great Salt Lake in recent years (Tove and Fischer 1988). The only apparent anomaly in the number of breeding birds is the drop in 1982, which evidently resulted from the temporary abandonment of Antelope Island. Estimating 18,000 birds at nearby colonies gives a total of ca. 93,000-98,000 breeding adults for the Great Salt Lake region.