Iceland Gull

Larus glaucoides

52-60cm

Appearance

This bird has pale wings, the tips of which are white. It may appear similar to the other white gull, the Glaucous Gull, and to the Herring Gull, though it is smaller than both these birds. The bill is also small and less fierce in appearance when compared to the Glaucous Gull, its head is rounder and its yellow eye is ringed in red. The legs are pink, the bill yellow with an orange dot, the back and upperwing grey with a white trailing edge, but otherwise the plumage is uniformly white. In winter it has dark streaks on the head, but they're absent in summer. Males are slightly bigger than females. Juveniles and first-winter birds are pale mottled grey-buff with white flight feathers and the dark bill has a suggestion of pale pink at the base. It takes three years for immatures to gain adult plumage.

Habitat

Predominately found on the coast, in harbours or garbage dumps. When inland, it is usually roosting near freshwater, often associating with flocks of other gull species.

Character

Usually seen alone in the region. Agile and elegant in flight, it feeds on the ground, when swimming or when flying, and occasionally dive for prey in water.

Food

Mostly eats fish, either hunted or scavenged, though when on breeding territory it can eat eggs and young birds of other species. Scavenges for human wastage when not in breeding season.

Breeding

Not a breeding bird in the region, instead opting for the tall, rocky cliff on Arctic coasts. Often chooses to nest below breeding sites of the Glaucous Gull.

Population

Birds depart their breeding territory in August and don't go back until April or May. Only a few visit Iceland despite the bird's name, and others head south towards North America's coast, and some move to western Europe. On average 240 Iceland Gulls visit Britain and Ireland each winter.

Observation Tips

The most likely areas for finding these birds are the region's northern and western coasts, particularly in the cold turns of January and February. They often associate in groups of larger gulls.

Voice

Makes a 'kyaoo' call and a 'ga-ka-ka' when on edge, both calls similar to those of the Herring Gull but in a higher pitch.
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