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Common Gull - BirdForum Opus

Common Gull L. c. canus, adult summer pair
Photo by mikemik
Sweden, June 2006
Larus canus


Common Gull L. c. canus, showing wing pattern
Photo by Doc Duck
Trondheim, Norway, June 2013

Length 40–46 cm (15¾-18 in), wingspan 100-130 cm, weight 300-550 g [Common Gull L. c. canus; see Subspecies, below, for other subspp.]
A fairly small white-headed gull, with small yellow bill, petite looks, medium-grey mantle, broad white crescents on back, round head, white primary tips show well when standing, and usually dark brown iris. In winter, the head is lightly streaked with dark grey, and the bill often has a narrow dusky to diffuse black band. Juvenile to first summer have white tail with black terminal band; brownish-black primaries; head and body brown to whitish, often heavily streaked; mantle brown in juvenile, grey by first winter.

Similar Species

Ring-billed Gull is slightly larger with slightly lighter back, pale yellow iris, thicker bill with broad solid black ring, narrower white crescents on back, and less white on the primary tips. Juveniles have whiter belly and black primaries.


Breeds in northern Europe, northern Asia, and northwestern North America; migrates south during the winter. See subspecies, below, for detail.


Its closest relative is Short-billed Gull (previously treated as a subspecies), then Ring-billed Gull, and then the entire Herring Gull complex of large white-headed gulls.


Kamchatka Gull L. c. kamtschatschensis, adult winter
Photo by DaninJapan
Shimoda-Machi, Aomori-Ken, Japan; February 2005

Subdivided into three subspecies[1][2]:

  • L. c. canus Common Gull. Abundant breeding species in northern Europe (Iceland, northwestern Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands, northern Germany, Scandinavia, Finland, Poland, the Baltic States, and Russia east to about 40°E longitude; wintering south and west to Ireland, Britain, France and northern Germany; small numbers as far south as Morocco, and west to the Atlantic coast of North America. Abundant, with a population of around 500,000 pairs; after Black-headed Gull the commonest gull wintering in Britain, with 700,000 birds, with a northern bias.
  • L. c. heinei Siberian Common Gull. Breeds in Russia and Kazakhstan from around 40°E to around 140°E longitude; wintering mainly in central Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, Black Sea, and southern Caspian Sea, though a few also west to Britain, and east with L. c. kamtschatschensis to the western Pacific. As L. c. canus, but mantle slightly darker. Population not known, but common in central Europe in winter.
  • L. c. kamtschatschensis Kamchatka Gull. Breeds in north-eastern Siberia; winters western Pacific in Japan, Korea, northeastern China, and far southeastern Russia (Vladivostok area). Length to 45 cm, weight to 600 g. As L. c. heinei, but larger, with a longer, heavier bill and more angular head; legs brighter yellow; iris often light brown in adults; size suggests a transition to Ring-billed Gull rather than Mew Gull[2]. Population not known, but common in Japan in winter.
  • The above three subspecies are weakly defined, with broad zones of intergradation where they meet[2].
Common Gull L. c. canus, juvenile
Photo by Bobby65
Leksand, Sweden; August 2005


Natural habitat by lakes and marshes in the breeding season and along coasts in winter; within last century or so has become strongly adapted to human commensalism, feeding on ploughed fields, meadows, and sports grounds, or in streets on human-supplied food, and using roofs in urban areas (particularly industrial estates) to nest and rest. Outside of the breeding season, often flies long distances (up to 20-30 km) every evening to roost at sea or on large lakes and reservoirs.



Omnivorous. They scavenge as well as hunt small prey.


They make a lined nest on the ground on islets in wetlands or on moorland, on large buildings (flat-roofed factories), or rarely, in a tree.



Click on photo for larger image


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2021. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2021. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Olsen, K. M., & Larsson, H. (2003). Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America. Helm ISBN 978-0-7136-7087-5
  3. Sibley, CG and BL Monroe. 1996. Birds of the World, on diskette, Windows version 2.0. Charles G. Sibley, Santa Rosa, CA, USA.
  4. Adriaens, P., & Gibbins, C. (2016). Identification of the Larus canus complex. Dutch Birding 38 (1): 1–64.

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