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Herring Gull

Herring Gull
Both sexes: Grey upperparts, white head and underparts, and black wing tips. Pink legs. Yellow bill with red spot near tip.

The Herring Gull is larger than the Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, and Lesser Black-backed Gull, but smaller than the Great Black-backed Gull.

In the summer, the adult birds have a pale grey back and wings, which have black wing tips and white spots. The head, neck and breast are white. The legs are pink and the bill is yellow with a red spot near the tip. The eye is yellow with an orange orbital ring.

In the winter, the bill is duller, and the head and neck are streaked with grey.

The plumage varies greatly according to the bird's age and the season. Juveniles are mottled brown with a dark bar at the tip of the tail. Immature birds become progressively greyer above and white below until they reach adult plumage in their 3rd winter.


Scientific Name Larus argentatus
Length 55-67 cm  (22-27")
Wing Span 130-158 cm  (52-63")
Weight 750-1250 g  (1½-2¾ lb)
Breeding Pairs 200000
Present All Year
Status Red

Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.


The yelping "kyow" and laughing calls, like "gah-gah-gah", of the Herring Gull are very familiar ones at the seaside.


© Jean Roché,


Herring Gulls are opportunists and will eat most things: fish, crabs, insects, eggs, young birds, small mammals and garbage.


They usually nest in colonies on ledges of sea cliffs or in dunes, but also on building roofs.

The nest is built by both birds from grasses and seaweed.

The smooth, non-glossy pale green eggs have brown blotches on them, and are about 52 mm by 37 mm in size. Both birds share the duty of incubating the eggs and feeding the precocial nestlings.

Breeding Starts Clutches Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
April 1 2-3 25-33 c.42


British birds are resident and mostly sedentary so that after nesting the adults and juveniles disperse only short distances to favoured feeding grounds, often farmland away from the coasts. Some do migrate to southern Europe and the Mediterranean for the winter, where they are joined by other Continental birds that have migrated southwards. Similarly, the British population may increase three- or fourfold when Icelandic and Scandinavian birds  stay for the winter.


Unbelievably, this once common gull of the seaside is now a red list species of conservation concern owing to its population declining by more half in the last 25 years.