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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Herring Gull Larus argentatus

Noisy, assertive, and always on the lookout for a meal, the herring gull is the most widespread gull in the Northern Hemisphere. It has gray upperparts and black wingtips, and a large yellow bill with a conspicuous red spot near the tip. Young herring gulls are mottled brown, and it takes them three years to develop the full adult plumage. Often seen in flocks, herring gulls are highly adaptable birds, feeding on anything edible that they can find. They rarely venture far out to sea, but their range extends a long way inland, where they are often associated with humans—following tractors to eat earthworms turned up by the plow, or wheeling noisily over garbage dumps. Herring gulls nest on the ground and on rooftops, typically laying three eggs. They can be highly aggressive if their nests are disturbed.

Scavenging Herring Gulls

Scavenged food forms a large part of the herring gull’s diet, both on land and at sea. This gull has benefited from urban expansion and the growth in fishing, both of which generate a large supply of edible waste. Herring gulls may cause problems at inland garbage dumps by picking up waste and carrying it away.

Herring Gullzoom image
  • Order Charadriiformes
  • Length 22–26 in (56–66 cm)
  • Weight 1–2 lb (750 g–1.25 kg)
  • Habitat Coasts, reservoirs, urban areas
  • Distribution Worldwide in Northern Hemisphere
Herring Gull habitat mapzoom image