Yellow-Legged Gull

Yellow-Legged Gull

Key facts

Scientific name: Larus michahellis

Status: Non-breeding late-summer visitor and passage migrant, has bred

Breeding birds: 1-4 pairs

Wintering: 1,100 birds

Conservation status: Amber

Length: 58 – 68 cm

Wingspan: 140 – 155 cm

Weight: 800 – 1500 g


Yellow-legged gulls have pure white underparts with a grey mantle and wings. Their rump and tail are white, and they have some black on the tips of the primaries and white speculums on their wing tips. They have white heads with very fine streaks from the eye to the back of the crown.

Their bills are bright orange with a red patch on the lower mandible. They have dull or bright yellow eyes with a red eye-ring. Their long legs and feet are bright yellow.

In autumn and winter their heads become white and they have a black bar on their tail.

Male and female yellow-legged gulls look the same. Juveniles have a dark bar on their tail, their head and underparts are pale, and they have a dark grey bill.


Yellow-legged gulls nest in large colonies on the ground in between rocks or on sand and pebbles. Their nest is a cup-shaped scrape which is lined with grass, twigs, and algae.


Yellow-legged gulls lay 2-3 greenish-brown eggs with dark speckles which are incubated for 26-29 days. Chicks are fed regurgitated food by both parents and fledge 42-48 days after hatching.


Yellow-legged gulls eat mostly fish and crustaceans. They will also eat the eggs of terns, petrels and shelducks, and will visit rubbish dumps for food.  

Yellow-Legged Gull

Where to see them

Yellow-legged gulls can be found across the south of the UK. Look at for them at coastal marshes, fields, and rubbish dumps. 

In the evening they will form large roosts at reservoirs and lakes with lesser black-backed gulls. 


Jack Berteau/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Yellow-legged gulls have only recently been recognised as a distinct species, having previously been considered a subspecies of the herring gull or Caspian gull. DNA tests have shown that it is in fact more closely related to the great black-backed gull.

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