Great Black-backed Gull

The Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) is a species of bird that is found on the European and North American coasts and islands of the North Atlantic. It is mainly a resident species, but some birds may move further inland to large lakes and reservoirs. This species was first described by Linnaeus in his 18th century work, “Systema Naturae”.

The adult is 24 to 28 inches long with a 55 to 67 inch wingspan. The average weight of an adult male is 4 pounds 6 ounces. It is a bulky bird with a powerful yellow bill with a red spot. The adult has black wings and back, and white patches on the wing tips. Its legs are pink. The young are scaly black-brown on the upper side and have a neat wing pattern. The call is a deep “laughing” cry.

The Great Black-backed Gull is mostly carnivorous, which is unlike most gulls of this genus. It will frequently hunt and kill any prey that is smaller than itself. It behaves more like a raptor than a typical gull. However, they will also scavenge like other gulls. They often rob other seabirds of their catch and have been known to follow feeding humpback whales in order to catch fish driven to the surface by the whale. They are capable of swallowing a puffin or small wild duck whole.

This species may breed singly or in small groups. It builds a lined nest on the ground sometimes on top of rocky masses. The female lays 1 to 3 eggs. The young leave the nesting area after about 50 days, but may stay with their parents for months afterwards. Those that choose to leave their parents often congregate with other immature gulls in search for food. The young take four years to reach maturity. Development in this species is somewhat slower than that of other gulls.

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