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Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus


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Lesser Black-backed Gull
credit: Andreas Trepte/CCSA

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Family: Laridae, Gulls and Terns view all from this family

Description ADULT SUMMER Has dark gray back and upper wings. Black wingtips are appreciably darker than rest of upper wing (in typical ssp. graellsii seen in North America) and note white trailing edge to inner two-thirds of upper wing. Plumage is otherwise white. Bill is bright yellow with an orange spot. Iris is yellow and eyering is red. ADULT WINTER Similar, but has streaks on head and neck and duller leg and bill colors. JUVENILE AND 1ST-WINTER Have streaked and mottled gray-brown plumage, palest on head. Upper wings appear uniformly dark brown and tail is whitish with dark terminal band. Eye and bill are dark. Full adult plumage is acquired over 3 years though successive molts. Second-winter is similar to first-winter but has gray back with pinkish legs and dark-tipped pink bill; underparts and tail are paler with less streaking. Third-winter bird resembles winter adult but has more streaking on head and neck, and hint of dark terminal tail band.

Dimensions Length: 23" (58 cm)

Habitat Scarce but increasing nonbreeding visitor to Atlantic coast, mainly Oct-Mar. Breeding status here is not known.

Observation Tips Search among winter gull roosts to find it.

Range Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic, Eastern Canada, Texas, New England, Southeast, Florida

Voice Utters a distinctive kyaoo and anxious ga-ka-ka.

Similar Species Yellow-legged Gull L. michahellis (L 23-26 in) from Europe is probably overlooked but increasingly detected. Adult recalls Herring but has yellow legs. Juvenile and first-winter have paler head and neck than Herring counterparts.

Discussion Eurasian gull with similar size and proportions to Herring, but adult's dark gray back and upper wings are obvious and bright yellow legs clinch identification. Associates with other large gull species outside breeding season. Sexes are similar.