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Lesser Black-backed Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull
Both sexes: Dark grey back and wings, white head and body. Yellow legs. Yellow bill with red spot near tip.

The Lesser Black-backed Gull is very slightly smaller than the Herring Gull, but has longer legs and a thinner bill.

The adult's back is dark grey as are the wings, which have white edges and black tips with white spots. The head and body are white in the summer, but the head is streaked with grey in the winter. The bill is yellow with a red spot near the tip and the eye is yellow with a red orbital ring. The legs are yellow (whereas the Herring Gull's legs are pink).

Juveniles and first winter immature birds are similar to immature Herring Gulls but darker. The bill is black, the eyes are brown and the legs are pink-brown. In their second year, the head and body are whiter and dark grey feathers start to appear on the back and scapulars (shoulders). The legs and bill also become increasingly like the adult's.

A good mnemonic for remembering whether it is the Lesser or Great Black-backed Gull with the yellow legs is: "the lesser fellow has the yellow".

Summer Adult
Summer Adult

Scientific Name Larus fuscus
Length 52-67 cm  (21-27")
Wing Span 128-148 cm  (51-59")
Weight 650-1000 g  (1½-2¼ lb)
Breeding Pairs 90000
Present All Year
Status Amber

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


Their call is similar to the Herring Gull's "gah-gah-gah", but rougher sounding.


© Jean Roché,


Their diet varies with the seasons. In the summer they feed on prey and carrion comprising worms, insects, birds' eggs, nestlings, fish and small mammals. In the winter, they feed more on fish and shellfish, but also scavenge on rubbish tips and agricultural land.


Nests are built by both birds on the ground in a colony on cliff tops, beaches or inland islands, but also on buildings. The nest is lined plant material.

The eggs are olive to dark brown in colour with blackish blotches. Both parents incubate the eggs and care for the young.

Breeding Starts Clutches Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
April-May 1 1-3 24-27 35-40


The Lesser Black-backed Gull used to be only a summer visitor, but now most of our birds are resident, though some do still migrate to Africa in the winter. The British population is joined by Scandinavian birds in the winter - these have darker, almost black, backs.

During the winter, many birds roosts on inland lakes or reservoirs at night time and then fly to feeding grounds, such as rubbish tips and fields, in the day time.


The Lesser Black-backed Gull population has declined over the last few years, hence its listing on the Amber list of Species of Conservation Concern.