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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Great Black-backed Gull

Bird Sightings : Great Black-backed Gull

Great Black-backed Gull

Larus marinus

Gaelic: Farspag

Photograph © Debbie Bozkurt
Balivanich Beach - Benbecula - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
29th October, 2006


Our Great Black-backed Gull photographs

Great Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gull


  • Great Black-backed Gull (Black Minister, Black-Backed Gull, Greater Black-Backed Gull, Saddleback, Wagell, Cobb, Coffin-Carrier, King of Gulls)
  • Larus marinus
  • Gaelic: Farspag
  • UK: Resident Breeder, Winter Visitor
  • UK: Breeding 17,160 pairs. WInter 43,156 birds RSPB
  • WI: Common resident or migrant breeder (1000 -10,000 pairs) & winter visitor
  • Breeds: Mature at 4 yrs. Breeds singly or in small colonies. Lays 1-3 eggs. Lined nest on ground at top of rock stack. Coastal or island site. North Atlantic: Europe, North America. Russia.
  • Winters: Mostly resident, some move further south or inland, congregating with other gulls. Reservoirs, lakes, rubbish tips, bays, harbours. Some head south to S Europe
  • The largest gull 61-74 cm (2-2½ft) length, 1.4-1.7m (4½-5½ft) wingspan. Black back & wings. White rounded patches (mirrors) at wing tips. Thick-set, bulky. Powerful beak. Pinkish legs. Bill yellow (with red spot). Often hunched when perched. Flight heavy.
  • Diet: Omnivorous, but mostly carnivorous. Often kills any prey smaller than itself (Said to be able to swallow a Puffin whole). Also scavenges and pirates food (will rob a Northern Gannet!). Animals, shellfish, birds, carrion
  • Max recorded age 27yrs 1 mth
  • Listen to a Great Black-backed Gull (RSPB site) Deep "laughing" cry
  • Similar birds: Lesser Black-backed Gull (Dark grey back)


Once they can feed themselves some young Great Black-backed Gulls may remain with their parents for several months - others congregate with other immature gulls.

See a photograph of a Great Black-backed Gull attacking a Coot which shows the size of the Gull. (WIKI)


Great Black-backed Gull records in the Western Isles

Common resident or migrant breeder (1000 -10,000 pairs) and winter visitor
Source: Outer Hebrides Bird Report (2001)

On the chart below the darker the shade of blue the more abundant the Great Black-backed Gull is during a month or the more likely you are to see it.

























(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)



Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

Debbie's online photo album

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