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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Herring Gull

Hebrides bird Sightings - Herring Gull

Adult Herring Gulls
Hebrides bird Sightings - Herring Gull


Herring Gull

Larus argenteus

Gaelic: Glas-fhaoileag

Photographs © Kim Park
Uig - Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
20th June, 2005


Our Herring Gull photographs

Herring Gull
Herring Gull
Herring Gull
Herring Gull
Herring Gull


  • Herring Gull
  • Larus argentatus argenteus
  • Gaelic: Glas-fhaoileag
  • UK: AMBER LIST. Breeding 139,309 pairs. Wintering 378,748 birds RSPB
  • UK: Resident Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor
  • WI: Larus argentatus argenteus is a common resident or migrant breeder (1000 -10,000 breeding pairs)
  • Breeding: Colonies. Lays 2-4 dark blotched, olive coloured eggs on the ground or on cliff ledges. North America, Europe, Asia
  • Wintering: Mostly resident, but birds in colder northernmost regions migrate south to South Europe, South Asia, Central America
  • Habitat: Seacoasts, lakes, rivers
  • Diet: Omnivorous, but mostly animal material, also scavenges and pirates food
  • Large Gull (To 26in, 66cm length). Adult light grey back. White below. Black wing tips with white 'mirrors'. Pink legs. Webbed feet. Heavy hooked bill (with red spot)
  • Max recorded age 34yrs 9mths. Typical lifespan 19yrs
  • Listen to a Herring Gull (RSPB site)
  • Similar birds: Kumlien's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common Gull


Like some of the other gulls, an adult Herring Gull has a bright red spot on the lower part of it's yellow bill. A chicks peck at this spot when it wants to be fed, stimulating the parent to regurgitate what it last ate, which provides food for the chick.

Herring Gullls have had a decline over the last 25 years and more than 50% of their UK breeding population is within less than ten sites. (RSPB)


Juvenile & 1st winter mostly brown with dark streaks. Dark bill. Dark eyes.

2nd winter whiter head & below. Less streaking than adult. Grey back.
3rd winter similar to adult but has some brown feathers wings & dark markings on bill.
Breeding adult grey back & upperwings. White head & below. Black wingtips (with white spots 'mirrors') . Yellow bill with red spot. Ring of bare yellow skin around pale eye.

Non-breeding adults brown streaks on head & neck.

Male & females are similar but adult males are often larger.



Herring Gull records in the Western Isles

Larus argentatus argenteus is a common resident or migrant breeder in the Western Isles (1000 -10,000 breeding pairs).
Source: Outer Hebrides Bird Report (2001)

The argenteus race breeds in Iceland, the Faroes, Britain, Ireland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. It is smaller than Larus argentatus and has more black and less white in the wingtips and paler upperparts.


Larus argentatus argentatus breeds in Scandinavia and north-west Russia. Northernmost and the eastern populations migrate south-west in winter. Some of these occur in the Western Isles as an uncommon winter visitor (recorded in low numbers each year). It is described as a large, bulky gull with extensive white in the wingtips.

The legs of the Heriing Gull are usually pink but they can be yellowish or greenish. Most of the Herring Gulls in the Western Isles with yellowish legs are visitors from the Baltic population Larus argentatus 'omissus' which used to be considered a separate subspecies.


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

























(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)



Visit Kim's web site of her photography of the Western Isles

Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

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