Gulls are medium to large sized birds that are typically white or gray in color, often bearing black markings on their wings and/or heads. Other physical characteristics include webbed feet and long, stout beaks. Most are members of the genus Larus, in the family Laridae, and are closely related to terns, also in the Laridae family, but of the genus Sterna. Many members of the genus are carnivorous birds, eating both live and dead prey items. Some are also cannibalistic, eating the eggs and young of others of their species. Being highly resourceful and opportunistic in their search for food, they often obtain it through kleptoparasitism (stealing food from other species). Many humans can testify to this trait, as gulls will even harass people in their persistent attempts to steal, or beg tidbits. They will also take advantage of other resources provided by humans, including trash from landfills and residential areas, and stored forage or fruit/grain crops in agricultural settings.
All gulls are migratory birds, and are, therefore, protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. There are 52 species worldwide, with 19 having been observed in Minnesota. Their designation within the state has been identified as being either regular (observed in at least eight of previous 10 years), casual (observed in three to eight of previous 10 years), or accidental (observed in less than four of previous 10 years). Most are migrants through the state, but these may linger on larger lakes and marshes until freeze up. Only three species breed within Minnesota: ring-billed gull, Franklin's gull*, and herring gull.