Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)

A large light-colored bird flies over head while calling.

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Introduction

Like many gulls, herring gulls are opportunistic omnivores eating carrion, fish, garbage, and stealing food from other birds. Herring gulls are often frequent visitors to landfills where they find great quantities of discarded human foods, although adults often forage for natural foods when they have chicks.

They have also been known to steal food from other birds, including fish caught by common loons. It is this ability to find shelter and food in human-altered environments that has made this bird so successful.

Fascinating Facts

  • Chicks peck at a red spot found on the end of the adults’ bills--something that all large gull species have--to stimulate the adults to regurgitate food.
  • Chicks are semi-precocial and can leave the nest, which is usually built in the open, to find shade on hot days. However, they cannot feed themselves and rely on the adults to find them food, even well after fledging.
Identification
  • Key ID Features: Herring gulls are the "typical" gulls. They are large light-colored birds with darker wingtips, gray on back and white below. They have a red spot on the bill rather than the vertical dark ring of the ring-billed gull. This gull is common here in winter; ring-billed gulls are more common in summer.
  • Present in Park: Often found along the river in late fall and through winter.
  • Habitat: In summer along coastlines and the shores of the Great Lakes.
  • Voice: Many different calls, including mews, ha-ha-ha alarm calls among others. Listen

Did You Know?