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What Is Utah’s State Bird? How Was It Decided?

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California Gull along the harbor

Learning about a state’s history is always fascinating, and you can learn more about each sate by researching its state bird. In Utah, the state bird is the California gull (Larus californicus), and the reason for this choice is a rather interesting one. Keep reading to learn more about why Utah chose the California gull as its state bird. 

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Why Was the California Gull Chosen as Utah’s State Bird?

The California gull was officially named the state bird in 1955 by the state’s legislature. But, while the official name for the selection is the California gull, the bird is usually listed in official documents as the seagull. But, this is just a common name for these birds as there is no official species in the scientific community called a seagull.

California Gull close up
Image Credit: 12019, Pixabay

History Of The Seagull in Utah

The seagull has a special place in Utah state history as it saved the crops of Mormon pioneers in the spring of 1848. During this year, the new settlers were facing hunger and starvation after their first winter in the area.

But, while they had some hope as crops were more plentiful in the spring, crickets began devouring all of the crops. While the Mormon pioneers tried to get rid of the crickets using various methods such as fire and water, they weren’t very successful.

The settlers’ situation was grim, but in a fascinating act of nature that some attributed to a miracle, seagulls showed up and ate the crickets. Because of this, the bird was selected as the state bird, and there’s even a commemorative statue called the Sea Gull Monument in Salt Lake City.

Why Are Seagulls in Utah?

Seagulls mainly migrate through Utah, but you might think’ you’ve only seen them around beaches. Because of their role in Utah history, many people appreciate these birds, and they have a special significance to people of the Mormon faith.

California Gull in flight
Image Credit: Sheila Fitzgerald, Shutterstock

Characteristics of the California Gull

California gulls can perform aerobatic maneuvers in the sky that are pretty impressive. In fact, they can even look motionless while hovering in the air, and they often use wind currents to increase their airspeed. They are primarily white with gray wings, orange beaks, and webbed feet.

While most people associate gulls with coastal areas, there are several species that visit Utah while heading north. California gulls eat almost anything, including fish, insects, garbage, and even food waste like old fries. In Utah, you’re likely to see the gulls hunting for food waste in parking lots. While some people find them annoying, they are usually gentle and can help clear up trash.

What Kind Of Birds Are in Utah?

While the California gull is the state’s most famous bird, there are many other fascinating species in the state. For birdwatchers, there are various backyard species, such as robins, doves, woodpeckers, finches, and hummingbirds. There are also majestic birds of prey that call the state home, including bald eagles, golden eagles, and peregrine falcons.

Conclusion: How To See Seagulls in Utah

It’s usually not too difficult to see California gulls in Utah. During the summer, you can find them in parking lots or near open bodies of water like the Great Salt Lake. Although you may be tempted to feed the birds while enjoying a relaxing day by the water, you’ll soon become overwhelmed by a large flock of hungry gulls. However, they’re not aggressive creatures, and their fondness for food helped save the crops of Utah’s early settlers.

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Featured Image Credit: Gurcharan Singh, Shutterstock

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.