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Common Gull

Common Gull

Key facts

Scientific name: Larus canus
Status: Resident breeding species, winter visitor, and passage migrant

Breeding birds: 49,000 pairs

Wintering birds: 710,000 birds

Conservation status: Amber
Length: 40 – 42 cm
Wingspan: 110 – 130 cm
Weight: 300 – 480 g

What do common gulls look like?

Adult common gulls in breeding plumage have a pure white body, tail, and head with a pale grey mantle. The upperwings are grey with a broad white edge and the tip of the wing is black with large white spots. The underwings is white with a black wing tip.

They have a greenish-yellow bill, dark brown eyes with a red eye-ring, and greenish-yellow legs and webbed feet.

In non-breeding plumage common gulls have grey streaks on their heads and hindnecks. The legs and feet are duller, and the bill sometimes has a thin dark bar near the tip. Males and females are similar.

Juvenile common gulls are grey-brown with buff mottling on the head and breast. The mantle and scapulars are darker with pale feathers on the edges. Their tails are white with a black subterminal bar. The bill is black and the legs and feet are pinky coloured.

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How do common gulls breed?

Common gulls breed in May. They nest in small colonies although some pairs will nest solitary. The nest site is situated near water on high ground on the top of a stump, on rock, in trees, or amongst vegetation of island marshes.

Usually the female builds the nest although the male will stay nearby and may help sometimes. It is a shallow cup and constructed from seaweed, twigs, moss, bark, and grass. When built in a tree it can be a platform.

Common gulls lay 1-3 pale brown or olive eggs with darker brown markings which are incubated by both parents for 24-26 days. Chicks are covered in buff down with brown spots and paler underparts. They are fed by both parents on insects and small fish. At 20 days after hatching they begin to forage by themselves and they fledge at 30-35 days.

What do common gulls eat?

Common gulls feed on small fish, aquatic insects, crustaceans, molluscs, sea urchins, earthworms, land insects.

Inland they will take rodents, small birds, carrion, and rubbish and can often be found at landfill sites

Common Gull

Where can I see common gulls?

Common gulls can be seen all year round in the UK. During the summer they are seen around coastal areas and inland marshes and lakes of Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland. In the winter they can be found across England and Wales on farmland, lakes, and on the coast, as well as towns and housing estates.

What do common gulls sound like?

Peter Stronach/xeno-canto

Did you know?

There are 4 subspecies of common gull of which the one seen in the UK is the nominate. The others are the Russian common gull (L. c. heinei), the Kamchatka gull (L. c. kamtschatschensis), and the mew gull, or short-billed gull (L. c. brachyrhynchus). The mew gull is considered a distinct species by some authorities.

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