Lesser Black-backed Gull

Larus fuscus

52-67cm

Appearance

Slightly smaller and more slender than the Herring Gull, with yellow legs and a dark grey back. The upperwings are dark grey with black tips, although birds of Baltic origins have completely black upperwings. The inner two-thirds of the upperwing have a white trailing margin, and the plumage is otherwise white. There's an orange dot at the end of the yellow bill, and the yellow eyes are ringed with red. Winter birds gain grey streaks on the head and neck, and the bill and legs are less vivid at this time. Juveniles and first-winter birds are mottled grey-brown and streaky, appearing scaly on the back; upperwings are dark brown, the tail is pale with a dark section at its end and the bill and eye are dark. They gain adult plumage after three years of moulting.

Habitat

Breeding territories include sand dunes, well-vegetated sea cliffs and islands, moors and some townships. Otherwise found in a range of locations, both inland and coastal (mostly inshore waters).

Character

This is a colonial breeder, often mingling with other species. Roosts in large groups too, though migration usually happens alone or in small groups.

Food

Eats small mammals such as voles, and other birds such as Puffins and terns. Diet also includes eggs, fish, insects, shrimps, shellfish, worms, plant material, carrion and scavenged goods.

Breeding

Nesting takes place in late April or early May; the female lays 2-4 eggs which both parents incubate for 24-27 days. Young hatch over 1-6 days and depart the nest early, but remain nearby so their parents can feed them; can fly after approximately 30-40 days.

Population

Used to be a summer visitor, but many birds now spend winter in the region, including birds from northern Europe. About 120 000 pairs breed in the UK and 2900 in Ireland, and the population over winter is approximately 130 000.

Observation Tips

Lesser Black-backed Gull colonies exist on Skomer Island and are a sight to behold. When out of breeding season, groups may feed on grassland, and may be spotted making their way to and from roosting locations at dusk or dawn.

Voice

Utters a guttural 'kaw' and a 'ga-ka-ka' call if alarmed.
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