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 – 46 cm

Wingspan: 110 – 125 cm

Weight: 300 – 500 g


Common gulls are larger than black-headed gulls, but smaller than herring gulls.

During breeding season, common gulls have pale grey wings and mantle with pure white head, body and tail. The tips of the wings are black with large white spots. Common gulls’ eyes are dark brown with a red eyering and they have greenish-yellow bill, legs and webbed feet.

In non-breeding plumage common gulls are duller and the bill may have a narrow dark bar at its tip. Male and female common gulls are similar looking.

Juvenile common gulls are greyish-brown with buff mottling on the head and breast. The bill is black and the legs and feet are flesh coloured.


Common gulls nest in small colonies although a number of pairs will remain solitary. They build their nests on high ground near water. They may even use trees. The nest is a shallow cup, usually built by the female and it is constructed from seaweed, grasses, twigs, mosses, bark and other plant material

Common gulls lay a clutch of 1-3 pale brown or olive eggs that have brown markings. Both adults incubate the eggs for 24-26 days.

Both parents feed the chicks until 20 days when they being to forage by themselves. They fledge at about 30-35 days and are independent a few days later.


Common gulls will scavenge on carrion as well as rubbish and can often be seen at landfills.

They also eat small fish, insects, worms, crustaceans and sea urchins as well as grain and berries.

Common Gull

Where to see them

Common gulls can be seen all year round particularly along the coasts and inland marshes and lakes during the summer and near lakes, farmland and on the coast in the winter.

Despite their name, common gulls are not at all common in some inland areas.


Peter Boesman/xeno-canto

Did you know?

The common gull is also known as the mew gull, particularly in North America, because of its high-pitched “mewing” call.

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