|Names: Matthew Kamm and Benjamin Kuss
Field Guide Title: A Field Guide to Common Northeastern Birds
Although there are many species of seagull, the herring gull is one of the most abundant in our area. These familiar scavengers can often be seen circling garbage dumps, restaurants, or any other source of scraps.
Identifying Traits (both sexes):
Light gray mantle across back and wings
Snow-white head, tail, and underside
Wingtips black with white spots near edges
Pale, flesh-toned pink legs
Large yellow bill with small red spot visible at close range
Clear yellow eyes
Juvenile: Young gulls of many species (including this one) are a mottled brown, with dark bills and dustings of grey and white. Young gulls at various stages of the transition from juvenile to adult plumage are a common sight.
Size: 66cm (26”)
Weight: 1250g (44 oz)
Similar Species: Ring-billed gull is smaller, with greenish legs and a black ring around its bill.
Voice: The herring gull’s call is the often heard kiyah! kiyah! or yuk-yuk-yuk that issues from mobs of gulls as they surround a food source. In confrontations or other situations of anxiety, herring gulls respond with an indignant gah, gah, gah!
Habitat: The herring gull is most often seen at the seashore, but these birds also frequent lakes, rivers, farms, and garbage dumps.
Range: The herring gull is a year-round resident along most of the Atlantic seaboard, and can often be found foraging as far west as Nebraska in the winter and as far north as Maine and Canada in the mating season.
Interesting Facts: Although they prefer fresh water when they can get it, herring gulls have adapted to drinking seawater. Special glands above their eyes desalinate the water, then excrete the excess salt in a viscous fluid that can sometimes be seen issuing from the bird’s nostrils and running down its bill.