Of all of the North American gulls, Heermann's Gull, Larus heermanni, is the only one that breeds in Mexico and migrates north in the summer along the Pacific Coast to southern British Columbia in search of food. The largest single breeding spot is Isla Raza in the Gulf of California. Adubon ranks Heerman as "Near Threatened," but Isla Raza was made into a wildlife sanctuary in 1964 and the hope is that the population is on the increase. There are some signs that this is happening and some are even trying to breed here in California.

Maturity takes four years, and, like all other gulls, Heermann changes his apparel regularly. At birth, he is brown with a flesh colored bill tipped with black. It takes three years for him to graduate to distinguished gray, black and white plumage with a pyrotechnic reddish-orange bill. All through his life, his legs and feet are solid black. It is also interesting to note that down in Mexico he manages a pure white head while breeding. Non-breeding adults have a gray head with spots. If you look closely at these pictures you can see the transition from brown to gray taking place in several of the individuals.

Heerman's Gull

Heerman's Gull

Heerman's Gull

Heerman's Gull

Heerman's Gull

The late summer day that these pictures were taken, Heermann was feeding just offshore. Two days before, a violent storm in New Zealand had generated intense waves that stirred the waters off our shore and the upwelling currents had brought food to the surface that attracted the small fish that Heermann loves. The books tell us that you won't find Heermann inland, he likes to stay close to the ocean. His northward migration coincides with that of Brown Pelican and it is important to note that they both like fish. Heermann is one of the gulls that regularly steal fish right out of Pelican's pouch. (A great show if you get the chance to watch.)

You won't find much information about who this adventurous fisherman is named after, but, after some esoteric research, we discovered that John Cassin named him after Dr. Adolphus Heermann, a field collector of birds in California that was active while the California Gold Rush was going on. Cassin and Heerman were among that small group of colorful individuals that are credited with starting the ornithology program in the Academy of Natural Sciences, America's first natural sciences museum in Philadelphia.

Heerman is an important name in American history.
Lewis fought the Barbary pirates and had a destroyer named after him
that participated with distinction in the Battle of the Phillippines. His son,
Adolphus, helped establish the importance of "bird watching" in America.
This beautiful gull wears the name proudly.

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