Iceland Gull

Iceland Gull

Key facts

Scientific name: Larus glaucoides
Status: Scarce winter visitor

UK wintering: 240 birds

Conservation status: Amber
Length: 52 – 60 cm
Wingspan: 130 – 158 cm
Weight: 750 g


In breeding plumage, Iceland gulls have white plumage overall with a pale grey mantle, upperwing coverts, and the bases of the flight feathers. The bill is yellow with a red spot, the eyes are yellow with a red eye-ring and the legs and webbed feet are pink.

Out of breeding plumage, Iceland gulls have pale brown streaks on the head and upper breast. Males and females are similar.

Juveniles in the first winter are pale with brown spots and bars on the upperparts, rump and undertail coverts. The tail has one pale grey terminal band, or several grey subterminal bands. The head is dusky, the bill is dark brown with a pink base, and the eyes are dark.

In the second winter, juvenile Iceland gulls are paler and more uniform overall. The head and body are white with some grey on the mantle and upperwing. The bill is yellow with a black tip.

By the third winter they resemble the adults but with a faint brown pattern on the upperwing coverts, and a dull yellow bill with black markings.


Iceland gulls breed in May and June in mixed colonies or in single pairs on rocky coasts, cliff edges, and sometimes near landfills. They produce 1 brood a season. The nest is a cup-shaped mound of seaweed, dry grasses,, and debris, lined with moss and finer grasses.

Iceland gulls lay 2 – 3 buff or olive-brown eggs with dark brown blotches which are incubated by both male and female for 23- 27 days. Chicks are fed by both parents and fledge at between 2 and 7 weeks after hatching. When they can fly they leave the colony and disperse more widely than the adults.


Iceland gulls eat mainly fish but will also take molluscs, crustaceans, berries, seeds, and carrion. It will also take the eggs and chicks of smaller seabirds and scavenges young, dead birds, as well as refuse from fishing boats, docks, and rubbish dumps.

Iceland Gull

Where to see them

Iceland gulls can be seen in the UK between November and April. They can be spotted almost anywhere but most often on the coast. Look out for them at reservoirs and rubbish tips.


Hans Matheve/xeno-canto

Did you know?

A subspecies of Iceland gull, Kumlien’s Gull which has darker grey wingtips, and dark eyes with a full red eye-ring, is sometimes considered a full species.

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