Glaucous Gull

Larus hyperboreus

62-68cm

Appearance

This is the biggest 'white-winged' gull found in the region; its white primary feathers separate it from other species. A robust bird with a huge bill, pinkish legs, pale grey back and upperwings, and otherwise white plumage. In winter it gains dark streaking on the head and neck. The eye is pale and is surrounded by a yellow ring. The wings have a white trailing edge, seen most clearly when flying. Juvenile and first-winter birds are mottled with fawn-coloured plumage and pale wing-tips, and the bill is pink with a black tip.

Habitat

When in the region, this gull is usually coastal, and prefers sea coasts and inshore waters, but may also be found further out on the ocean where it scavenges from boats. Rubbish tips draw these birds inland, and they may roost on lakes. Breeds on cliffs of Arctic coasts.

Character

When at the northern aspects of its habitat, it may be quite social and form large flocks, but in the region it's more commonly seen alone or in small groups. The Glaucous Gull is a frequent swimmer and it takes food from other bird species.

Food

Has a varied diet and is a keen scavenger, predator and pirate. Diet includes eggs, young birds, fish, shellfish, insects and carrion. It lingers near marine mammals such as walrus, seals and whales, so it's believed it feeds on their faeces.

Breeding

Female usually lays 3 eggs, and both adults incubate these for 27 days. Both parents tend to the hatchlings until they can fly at about 45 days old.

Population

A non-breeding visitor to the region; the largest numbers are present between November and March. Around 200 individuals spend winter in Britain and Ireland each year.

Observation Tips

Due to their scavenging habits, Glaucous Gulls frequent places of human population such as fish quays, harbours and car parks. They are more commonly seen during winter.

Voice

Mostly a silent bird during winter, but otherwise has a 'kyaoo' call and an on-edge 'ga-ka-ka' call which resemble the Herring Gull's calls, but deeper.
Back to Bird Index