The Mew Gull has typical gull-like plumage–slate-gray back and wings, a white head, tail, and body, and black wingtips with white spots. The beak and legs are yellow. In breeding plumage, the Mew Gull has a clean white head, a dark eye, and a solid yellow bill without markings. In non-breeding plumage, its head is smudged with brown, the red eye-ring is absent, and the bill is partially dark. Juveniles are varying degrees of mottled brown interspersed with white and gray.
Mew Gulls can be found with other gulls at abundant food sources, such as spawning areas and along tidal convergence zones. Like many gulls, the Mew Gull uses a variety of foraging techniques, obtaining food while walking, wading, swimming, or flying. It often feeds in fields and at sewage ponds. The Mew Gull sometimes carries a hard-shelled mollusk into the air and drops it on rocks or pavement to break it open.
In winter, the Mew Gull inhabits coastal waters, and is commonly found in estuaries, river mouths, and freshwater ponds close to the shore. Summer habitat is concentrated around northern lakes. This species is not common at garbage dumps in any season and is seldom found offshore.
Larus canus is a widespread breeder across much of northern Europe, which constitutes
>50% of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is large (>590,000
pairs), but underwent a moderate decline between 1970-1990. Although the species
was stable or increased in some countries during 1990-2000, it declined across much
of north-west Europe, and the trend in its Russian stronghold was unknown.
Nevertheless, its population has clearly not yet recovered to the level that preceded
This species inhabits boreal, temperate and steppe regions of Eurasia and North America. Locally it also occurs in arctic region. Most of the birds of Europe are wintering from the Baltic Sea to the British Isles, but small numbers reach the Iberian Peninsula and the Mediterranean. The population of the European Union (12 Members States) amounts to about 120000 breeding pairs, the total European population to about 524000 pairs
Mew Gulls are omnivores whose diet varies with the season. On their breeding grounds, Mew Gulls eat mostly insects, which they often catch in mid-air. In coastal areas during the non-breeding season, small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks make up the majority of the diet. Other marine creatures, earthworms, small rodents, young birds, eggs, carrion, refuse, grain, and berries round out the diet of this opportunistic species.
This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 10,000,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 1,700,000-4,400,000 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]
Breeding in small colonies or isolated pairs, Mew Gulls nest on high ground near water, or on top of a stump, or in a dense spruce up to 20 feet off the ground. Mew Gulls in Europe have been known to nest on gravel rooftops. When the nest is on the ground, it is a shallow scrape lined with grass. Nests built in trees are usually shallow cups of twigs and grasses. Both sexes help build the nest and incubate the 3 eggs for about 4 weeks. The young from nests built on the ground may leave the nest after a few days, but stay close by. The young in nests built in trees stay in the nest for a longer period. Both parents help feed the young, which fledge at about 4 weeks of age.
Mainly migratory. European breeding population winters on western seaboard (including Baltic) south to Brittany, with small numbers reaching Iberia and Mediterranean in cold winters especially. British and Irish birds seldom emigrate but make extensive internal dispersals¾mainly south to south-west in autumn, with Scottish birds reaching Irish Sea and Ireland more often than North Sea. Typically, European migration is through maritime countries; only small numbers penetrate far into central Europe, though increasingly in recent years and has begun breeding there.
- spanwidth min.: 119 cm
- spanwidth max.: 122 cm
- size min.: 40 cm
- size max.: 46 cm
- incubation min.: 22 days
- incubation max.: 28 days
- fledging min.: 33 days
- fledging max.: 37 days
- broods 1
- eggs min.: 2
- eggs max.: 5
- Conservation Status
- Larus canus brachyrhynchus
- n Alaska, w Canada
- Larus canus kamtschatschensis
- ne Siberia
- Larus canus heinei
- w Russia to c Siberia
- Larus canus canus
- Iceland and the British Isles to White Sea
- Larus canus
- NA, EU w Europe to Siberia and nw NA