Herring Gull

Herring gull
Immature Herring Gull

Herring Gulls are generally white with light gray backs and black-tipped wings. Their eyes are yellow with an orange outline. Their bills are also yellow but with a red spot at the tip of the lower mandible. Their legs are short and pink. Both males and females look similar.

Young birds take four years to reach their adult coloring. During their first winter, they are grayish-brown with extensive tan or brown streaking all over their bodies. Their eyes and bills are dark. Their coloring goes lighter or paler so their eyes, bills, and heads turn lighter and They begin to show gray feathers on their backs.

European Herring Gulls, (Larus argentatus), are similar to American Herring Gulls but their wings and backs are of darker gray coloring. 

  • Larus smithsonianus
  • Length: 22 – 26 in (56 – 66 cm) 
  • Weight: 52.9 oz (1499 g)
  • Wingspan: 54 – 58 in (137 – 147 cm)


Herring Gulls are found worldwide in the Northern Hemisphere. American Herring Gulls breed predominantly in Canada before migrating to the coasts of Canada and the United States and the Great Lakes and southeastern US states. Some remain all year along the coast and Great Lakes.

Habitat And Diet

You can find Herring Gulls in open water, pools and shallows, mudflats, landfills, picnic grounds, and fish-processing plants when they’re foraging for food.

When they’re resting, they usually stay with a mixed species group in areas with good visibility against predators, like beaches, parking lots, airport runways, and garbage dumps. Breeding areas include lakes near forests and coastal regions with isolated islands that are safe from ground predators. 

Herring gulls are opportunistic feeders and on coastal shorelines, they will feed on mussels, crabs, crayfish, and sea urchins. On mudflats, they will eat worms and clams. In open water, they stay close to large fish and fishing boats that bring smaller fish and squid to the surface.

Herring gulls will even raid the nests of other seabirds to eat the chicks in their nests. 

Herring Gull Calls:


Nests of Herring Gulls are chosen by both parents. They choose spots on the ground that can easily hide their nesting site from predators so nests may be near a rock, log, or bush and crevices in rocky areas.

They are usually just scrapes on the ground lined with grass, seaweed, or feathers.  The parents make several scrapes and choose the best one among them. The female lays two to three eggs and both parents take turns in incubating their eggs for about a month.

Fun Fact:

Herring gulls are known to drop shellfish on hard surfaces, like rocks or roads, to break them open.