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Glaucous Gull - BirdForum Opus

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Photo © by Andy T
Dungeness, Kent, 31 January 2009
Larus hyperboreus


64-77 cm (25¼-30¼ in) A large and powerful gull
Very light in all plumages, lacks black in the wings or tail.
Adults are pale grey above, with a thick yellow bill
Immatures very pale grey with a pink and black bill. They take four years to reach maturity. Notice that the tip of the wings is the palest part of the wing in these.

Similar Species

Has a larger and thicker bill than the Iceland Gull, many are no larger than Herring Gull but generally size is in between Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull.

1st cycle
Photo © by Joseph Morlan
Colma, California, USA, 28 December 2022
2nd cy
Photo © by Steve Copsey
Southsea, Hampshire, 5 February 2009


Breeds in west and north Iceland, Jan Mayen, Bear Island and Svalbard, on the north Russian coast from the Kanin Peninsula eastwards, and on Novaya Zemlya and Franz Josef Land.

In winter found around Iceland and from Lapland south to Denmark and the Netherlands, the north of Scotland and in smaller numbers on the east coast of Britain and northern France. Total British wintering population is usually above 200 birds with up to 600 present in some years. Many are regularly returning individuals with favoured wintering sites.

Vagrant to Spain and the Mediterranean and Black Seas, the Czech Republic, Hungary, the Canary Islands, Azores and Madeira.

Interbreeds extensively with Herring Gull in Iceland (also recorded in Scotland) and occasionally other species elsewhere in range. This species also breeds in Greenland, arctic Canada and Alaska, and winters further south in Canada and the northern U.S.


Photo © by Macswede
Råstasjön, Sweden, 13 February 2010


There are 4 subspecies[1]:

  • L. h. hyperboreus:
  • Jan Mayen and Spitsbergen east to Taymyr Peninsula
  • L. h. pallidissimus:
  • Taymyr Peninsula east to Bering Sea and Pribilof Islands
  • L. h. barrovianus:
  • L. h. leuceretes:


Breeds on islands and mainland cliffs, beside freshwater lakes and rivers and on inland crags and cliffs. Out of the breeding season mainly on coasts, often in fishing harbours and bays.



They lay their eggs, some time between the middle of May to mid June, depending on snow conditions. Both adults prepare the nest, dropping material (such as grass, twigs, moss and sedges - occasionally seaweed) onto the ground then lying on their breast to push the material with their feet, forming a cup. Further vegetation is added throughout the incubation period. The clutch generally contains 3 eggs.


Omnivorous like most Larus gulls. Also scavenges as well as seeking suitable small prey. They forage while swimming or walking, and may catch small birds in flight. Often seen following fishing boats.


Call: a "laughing" cry like a Herring Gull
Listen to Glaucous Gull voice clip


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Burger, J., Gochfeld, M. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2018). Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/53979 on 20 September 2018).
  3. Howell, S.N.G. and Dunn, J. (2007) A Reference Guide to the Gulls of the Americas. Peterson Field Guides, New York.
  4. Malling Olsen, K. & Larsson, H. (2003) Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America. Christopher Helm, London.
  5. Weiser, E. and H. G. Gilchrist (2012). Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.573
  6. Weiser, E. and H. G. Gilchrist (2020). Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.glagul.01

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