a web page by Don Roberson
  • 99 species worldwide
  • DR personal total: 77 species (77%), 65 photo'd

The Larids are very well known worldwide, as they are composed of the Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers. Each group has traditionally been placed in its own family, and I have had family pages on this site about each for years. There close relationships to each other has also been apparent for decades. In 1998, responding to preliminary molecular evidence, the AOU downgraded each group (plus the skuas) into a subfamily of the Laridae. I have been hesitant to do so, partly because the evidence was somewhat contradictory, and partly because each group is so unique. Indeed, as to the Skuas, I was correct. The current evidence is that it is a separate family level clade. But the bulk of recent data (e.g., Baker et al. 2007) is that terns and skimmers are embedded within the Laridae, and that Laridae is non not monophylectic unless they all are included.

At this point I have reduced the three major groups to subfamily status, consistent with all other major checklists (e.g., IOC, Dickinson 2003). Click on each group below to reach a page on each group. Some pages have not been updated and list their group as a family.

GULLS Larinae
52 species

TERNS Sterninae
44 species


Photos: The flock of California Gull Larus californicus and Western Gull L. occidentalis (top) was following a Monterey Bay boat on 21 May 2006. The adult Mew Gull L. brachyrhynchus was at Pebble Beach, California, on 7 Feb 2009. The adult and young Elegant Tern Sterna elegans were at Moss Landing, California, on 15 Sep 2008. The Black Skimmer Rhynochops niger was at Alamedo Co., California, on 20 July 1978 . All photos © D. Roberson; all rights reserved.

Bibliographic notes: These are discussed on the subfamily pages.

Literature cited:

American Ornithologists' Union. 1998. Check-list of North American Birds. 7th ed. A.O.U., Washington, D. C.

Baker, A.J., S.L. Pereira, and T.A. Paton. 2007. Phylogenetic relationships and divergence times of Charadriiformes genera: Multigene evidence for he Cretaceous origin of at least 14 clades of shorebirds. Biology Letters 3: 205-209.

Burger, J., and M. Gochfeld. 1996. Family Laridae (Gulls) in del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., & Sargatal, J., eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 3. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Dickinson, E., ed. 2003. The Howard & Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. 3d ed. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, N.J.

Gill, F., M. Wright, and D. Donsker, D. (2009). IOC World Bird Names (version 2.0). On-line [accessed Aug 2009].




  page originally created 20 Feb 1999, revised 30 Aug 2009  
all text & photos © Don Roberson, except as otherwise indicated; all rights reserved