Lesser Black-backed Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull


Profile Lesser Black-Backed Gull     Literature page

[order] Charadriiformes | [family] Laridae | [latin] Larus fuscus | [UK] Lesser Black-Backed Gull | [FR] Goéland brun | [DE] Heringsmöwe | [ES] Gaviota Sombría | [IT] Zafferano | [NL] Kleine Mantelmeeuw

Kleine Mantelmeeuw determination

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Large but quite elegant gull, smaller of two black-winged and black-backed species in west Palearctic. Adult of northernmost race has back almost as black as flight feathers, but in southern races back becomes paler, even approaching in British birds ash-grey of Yellow-legged Gull and then contrasting with black flight feathers. Adult plumage otherwise white, with dusky streaks on rear head and neck in winter progressively more obvious from north to south. In all seasons, undersurface of flight feathers shaded (unlike Herring Gull). Legs yellow, even orange in spring. Juvenile noticeably darker than young Herring Gull, with more uniform dark brown mantle, darker unbarred tertials and outer greater coverts and (conversely) cleaner surround to bill and nape. In flight, first winter separable from Herring Gull by almost uniformly black-brown outer wing, greater coverts, and secondaries, and much deeper and more cohesive dark band across tail contrasting with whiter rump; less easy to tell from Yellow-legged Gull, which shows only faintly paler inner primaries (unlike Herring Gull) but has distinctively paler head than both other species.

Breeds mainly within oceanic fringe of middle and higher latitudes of west Palearctic, in temperate and boreal zones, extending marginally through subarctic to low-arctic coasts, but avoiding icy seas. In contrast to Great Black-backed Gull, often occupies nest-sites readily accessible over land to man and to mammalian predators, depending for security on strength of numbers in colony and on human tolerance or protection, accompanied by a degree of remoteness from settlements; exceptions are rocky islands, where grassy summit areas away from shore favoured, and islets in freshwater lakes. Generally flat or sloping sites under close, fairly short vegetation preferred.
Outside breeding season, spreads much more widely over inland and marine habitats, chiefly in inshore or offshore seas down to tropical waters, where it frequents lagoons, estuaries, harbours, and seashore, but often occurring inland. When wintering in England, strongly prefers gravel ponds and reservoirs or estuaries, docks, upper beaches of mud or shingle, sports fields, floodlands, river weirs, canals, filter beds, and sometimes ploughed fields near towns.

Larus argentatus is a widespread breeder across much of northern Europe, which
probably holds >50% of its global population. Its European breeding population is
large (>760,000 pairs), and increased between 1970-1990. Although populations in
the Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom and Netherlands declined during 1990-
2000, these losses were more than compensated for by increases in most other
European populations notably those in Norway and Russia.
This gull inhabits the coasts of northern and western Europe, from Iberia and the British Isles to northern Russia. Western European birds are wintering in the Iberian Peninsula and north-western Africa, but increasing numbers remain in the North Sea. This population has considerably increased since the beginning of the century. The birds of the north of the continent (Larus f. fuscus) move to the eastern Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and East Africa. This population has strongly decreased since the mid-1960’s. The total population of the European Union (12 Members States) amounts to about 135000-140000 breeding pairs, the total European population being estimated at 219000 pairs

Fish, aquatic invertebrates, nestlings and eggs of birds, carrion, offal, rodents and berries.
Baltic herring important in diet. In Mediterranean, prefers trawler discards, but during trawling moratorium fed at rubbish dumps, olive groves and rice fields.
Methods include contact-dipping and surface-plunging. In intertidal zone, more likely to peck at visible food items than to rummage in seaweed or under stones.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 1,000,000-10,000,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 680,000-750,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

North Sea area: egg-laying from late April or early May; up to 2 weeks later in Iceland and Finland. Nest is built on ground in the open, or partly sheltered by vegetation, sometimes more or less concealed in tall growth; also on cliff-ledges and -tops; since c. 1945, on roofs and ledges of buildings. Nest is a fairly substantial mound of seaweed, grasses, other vegetation, and general debris, 25-35 cm in external diameter and 10-15 cm high, with central depression 15-18 cm in diameter and 4-8 cm deep, lined finer material; less often shallow scrape with sparse lining. Clutch size 3 (1-4), incubation period
24-27 days and the chicks fledge after about 30-40 days. Colonies usually small in Russia, but large in Britain.

Basically migratory, though in recent decades 2nd-winter and older birds have shown increased tendency to winter within Britain. Total winter range now extends from Britain, Mediterranean, Black and Caspian Seas (uncommon), Turkmenistan, and Persian Gulf to Arabian Sea and West and East Africa (sparingly further south). Eastern populations in particular have extensive overland migrations.


  1. Measurements
  2. spanwidth min.: 117 cm
  3. spanwidth max.: 134 cm
  4. size min.: 48 cm
  5. size max.: 56 cm
  6. Breeding
  7. incubation min.: 24 days
  8. incubation max.: 27 days
  9. fledging min.: 30 days
  10. fledging max.: 38 days
  11. broods 1
  12. eggs min.: 4
  13. eggs max.:
  14. Conservation Status
  15. Kleine Mantelmeeuw status Least Concern


  1. Gelochelidon fuscus
  2. Larus fuscus barabensis
  3. c Asia
  4. Larus fuscus heuglini
  5. n Russia to nc Siberia
  6. Larus fuscus fuscus
  7. n Norway, Sweden and Finland to the White Sea
  8. Larus fuscus intermedius
  9. Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, sw Sweden and w Norway
  10. Larus fuscus graellsii
  11. Greenland, Iceland, Faroe Is., w Europe
  12. Larus fuscus
  13. EU w Europe to c Northern Siberia; also Greenland and Iceland
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