- The California gull, also known as the seagull, is the official state bird of Utah.
- Utah chose the seagull as their state bird to commemorate the gulls’ role in saving the people of Utah by consuming crickets that were destroying their crops.
- California gulls are highly social birds that live in large flocks and feed on small invertebrates, plants, and human food scraps.
Utah, known for its stunning landscapes and rich wildlife, proudly boasts an official state bird that epitomizes the spirit of this majestic region. Join us as we delve into the captivating world of Utah’s official avian representative and uncover its unique characteristics and significance to the state.
State Bird of Utah
The California Gull (Larus californicus) is the official state bird of Utah. It is a medium-sized gull native to North America. It has a white head and body, with greyish-brown wings and back. This seagull’s legs and bill are yellow. Its bill is relatively short and thick, with a slight downward curve. Its eyes are dark brown, and the eyelids have a yellowish tinge. These birds have long wings that are pointed, with a white wingtip. In flight, its wings have a broad white band along the edge. Its head has a black hood extending from the eye to the back of the neck. Its tail is short and square-tipped. It has a white rump, and the tail feathers are tipped with black.
California gulls are between 18-22 inches long from beak to tail. They have a wingspan of up to 4.5 feet. They typically weigh one pound, but larger birds can weigh two pounds.
Why Did Utah Pick a Gull as Their State Bird?
The California gull, Larus californicus, was chosen by the state to be the official bird of Utah in 1955. Its common name is the seagull. This selection was likely in honor of the fact that in 1848, these gulls saved the people of Utah by consuming droves of crickets that were destroying their crops.
Onlookers described the events as a miracle that saved their destroyed fields and prevented them from starving in the coming winter. The gulls gorged themselves on the crickets until the pests were defeated. To commemorate this, Utah built a monument in Salt Lake City titled the Seagull Monument! This is why Utah chose the seagull as their official state bird.
California Gull Habitat
These birds prefer open habitats such as wetlands and lakeside. They also live near shorelines and salt marshes. The most common places to spot them in Utah are at the Great Salt Lake or Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.
Behavior and Diet
California gulls are highly social birds and live in large flocks. They often feed on small invertebrates such as insects, crustaceans, and mollusks. They also consume various types of plants, such as grains, grasses, and seeds. Additionally, they scavenge for food, including human food scraps. Because they love fruits, especially cherries, it is common to spot them in orchards.
California gulls are very vocal birds and make loud cries and squawks. They nest in colonies near water sources, such as lakes, rivers, and marshes. When nesting, they build their nest on the ground, using twigs and grass to form a cup-like structure. They lay 2 or 3 eggs in a clutch, and both the mother and father take care of the eggs and the new chicks.
These gulls are highly adaptive and make their homes in a variety of habitats. They migrate during the winter months. During the summer, they forage in meadows, fields, and beaches.
California gulls are an important species to humans, as they help control the insect population. They are also important culturally, with many Native American tribes having strong ties to the bird.
Other Utah State Symbols
In addition to the California Gull as the state bird of Utah, the state also recognizes the American Elk as its official state mammal. The blue spruce is the state tree, and the frog is the state amphibian. Here are more wonderful Utah state symbols.
State Flower of Utah—Sego Lily
The Sego lily has been the state flower of Utah since 1911. It is a beautiful flower with a unique history.
The Sego lily is native to Utah and grows wild in the grasslands of the state. Its white blossoms are simple yet striking, and its long, narrow leaves are distinctive.
The Sego lily has important cultural significance to the people of Utah. During the 19th century, the flower was a symbol of hope and resilience for the pioneers who settled in the area. It was said that when food was scarce, the Sego lily provided sustenance for the pioneers. Native Americans who lived in the area at the time showed the Mormon pioneers how to dig up the roots of the Sego lily and eat them.
The Sego lily is a beloved symbol of Utah. It is featured on Utah license plates and is often used as a decorative motif on postcards, souvenirs, and other items.
The Sego lily is a reminder of the beauty and history of Utah. Its delicate white petals symbolize hope and resilience, while its strong, green leaves represent the beauty and strength of the state.
State Fruit of Utah — Cherry
The cherry (Prunus avium) has been the state fruit of Utah since 1997. The state chose the cherry for its sweetness, beauty, and health benefits. This tree is hardy and grows throughout Utah, adding to its popularity.
The cherry has a sweet, tart flavor and is a favorite fruit in Utah. Cherries are available year-round in the form of jams, jellies, and dried fruit products. They are also popular in pies, cakes, and other desserts. People also use cherries in savory dishes, adding a sweet and sour flavor.
Cherries are a great source of nutrition, containing vitamins C and A, fiber, and antioxidants. They are also a good source of potassium, magnesium, and iron. Eating cherries regularly can help reduce the risk of certain diseases, such as cancer.
Utahns celebrate the cherry each April with the Cherry Days Festival in Brigham City. The festival features a parade, cherry-based dishes, and a cherry pie-eating contest. It is a fun and delicious way to recognize the beloved cherry and its importance to Utah.
State Insect of Utah — Honey Bee
The honey bee (Apis mellifera) is the official state insect of Utah. The state of Utah is known as the “Beehive State.” As a species, honey bees are extremely important to our environment and the survival of many crops.
Honey bees are social insects that live in colonies. Their colonies are made up of a single queen bee, hundreds or thousands of worker bees, and a few male drones. They build their hives from hexagonal wax combs and fill them with honey, pollen, and larvae.
Honey bees are great pollinators and are responsible for pollinating one-third of the food we eat! They have a unique tongue that is specially designed for collecting nectar from flowers, and they have a special wax-producing gland that helps them build their hives.
Honeybees are incredibly hardworking. They are capable of flying up to 6 miles in search of nectar and pollen. They work together in teams to ensure the colony’s survival.
The honey bee is an incredible insect that plays an important role in our environment. It is truly an amazing bug, and it is an honor to have the honey bee as Utah’s state insect.
|Utah State Symbol||Symbol|
|State Bird||California Gull|
|State Flower||Sego Lily|
|State Insect||Honey Bee|
The photo featured at the top of this post is © J_Ray_Photography/iStock via Getty Images
Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.