Little Gull

Thanks to Nolan Pope and Steve Theissen a little gull was added to the Goose Pond bird checklist on May 27th. Little gulls are the smallest gulls in the world. Two days earlier Cynthia Bridge spotted a little gull, probably the same one, on May 25th west of Deforest at the Highway V Waterfowl Production Area. Little gulls are 10-12 inches long and have a 2 to 2.6 foot wingspan.


Many people were rewarded with sightings of the little gull at Goose Pond. The bird was probably a one-year-old bird and was not in breeding plumage. From a distance, one might first think the bird could have been a tern.

The gull liked to sit on the muddy edge of the east pond and then fly over the bird watchers and feed on the west pond. This gull’s main diet is insects and it flies along and plucks food from the surface water.

The Eurasian species was first found in Wisconsin in 1938 in Racine County. Little Gulls first nested in North America (Ontario) in 1962 with the only successful nest in Wisconsin found in Manitowoc County in 1975.  Since then no other nests have been reported.  

The little gull is sighted most years in Wisconsin along Lake Michigan or Lake Superior. Until the sighting in May there have only been eight records of little gulls in counties outside of the counties along the great lakes.

Ornithologists are not sure if the small population of little gulls is self sustaining or is supplemented by stray birds from Europe. A little gull chick banded in Sweden was found dead on the road in Pennsylvania in its first summer.   

When the gull was sighted, Mark thought of Sam Robbins, who liked to say: “The shortest distance between two points in southern Wisconsin goes past Goose Pond.”