Common Gull

Larus canus

40-42cm

Appearance

Smaller than the Herring Gull but markings are quite similar. It is grey on the back and upperwings, the legs and bill are greenish-yellow, eyes are dark, the wing-tips are black with white dots, wings have a white trailing edge, and rest of plumage is white. Birds gain dark streaks on head and neck during winter, and the bill becomes less vivid. Juveniles are pale but darkly streaked on the head and underparts, and the back is mottled brown with pale margins to the the feathers. In their first winter, the back becomes grey, birds gain a dark band on the tail, and the pink bill has a dark tip. Birds don't have full adult plumage until three years of moulting.

Habitat

Breeding takes place by the coast or on islands, but also on inland lakes and moorland. At other times of the year, may be found on farmland, reservoirs or areas closer to humans, such as playing fields.

Character

A social bird who associates with other gulls or terns through all seasons (while it feeds and roosts), though it may also have a breeding colony with its own species.

Food

Has a varied diet including live prey, carrion and food stolen from other birds. During summer it feeds on worms, cranefly larvae and other flies, moths, beetles, eggs, berries, small mammals, young birds and fish. Winter diet includes invertebrates, fish, crustaceans and scavenged goods from garbage dumps.

Breeding

Females lay 2-4 eggs in early May, and both parents incubate these for 22-28 days. Hatchlings are fed by both adults and depart the nest at 3-5 days old, though they don't wander far. They can fly at about 35 days and are soon independent.

Population

Common Gulls that spend the winter in the region often visit from nesting sites in Scandinavia; this means many birds travel through the North Sea in March on their return journeys. Approximately 49 000 pairs breed in the UK and 1000 in Ireland. In winter the population increases to 700 000 individuals.

Observation Tips

This bird is common during winter and is widespread. To view the Common Gull in its breeding season, northern England, Scotland or northwest Ireland are good areas to visit.

Voice

Has a shriller call in comparison to other gulls: utters a sharp 'keee-ow'.
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