Facts about the Lesser Black-backed Gull. This European native is common throughout its range and is a mid-sized gull.
The Lesser Black-backed Gull has the scientific name Larus fuscus. In French, it is called Goéland brun. The Lesser Black-backed Gulls are part of the Laridae or Gull family.
There are five subspecies of the Lesser Black-backed Gull. Larus fuscus fuscus was identified by Linnaeus in 1758. Larus fuscus graellsi is native to the British Isles, Greenland and Faroe Islands. Larus fuscus intermedius, identified in 1922, lives in Germany and the Netherlands. Larus fuscus heuglini was identified in 1876, and it lives in northern Russia. Larus fuscus barabensis, recognized by Johansen in 1960, lives in Central Asia.
The male and female Lesser Black-backed Gulls are similar in appearance. Male and female adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls both have white under-parts, a white head, and dark grey back, hence the name. The wing tips are black with some white spots. The Lesser Black-backed Gulls have yellow bills with a red spot near the end of the lower mandible. Their legs are yellow. Their heads become a lighter grey in winter.
The juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gulls have dusky brown plumage, a pale face, dark back, light and dark bars on the wings, beige legs, dark band on the tail, and pale rump. By the first winter, the plumage is still dusky brown but the back scaling is less distinct.
The Lesser Black-backed Gull species looks similar to the great black backed gull, but that species has pink legs and a darker back.
The Lesser Black-backed Gulls are 20 to 25 inches in length, weight one to three pounds, and have a wingspan of 53 to 60 inches.
The Lesser Black-backed Gull forms breeding colonies, sometimes only its own species, sometimes with other gull species. The Lesser Black-backed Gulls breed along coasts and on the tundra. The parents create a nest out of a pile of seaweed and other vegetation in a depression on the ground. Their clutches consist of one to four olive colored eggs. When the young leave the nest, the Lesser Black-backed Gull will not breed until they are four years of age.
Nonbreeding adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls (juveniles too young to breed but too old to live with parents) and failed breeders (whose eggs were stolen or chicks were eaten) live in clubs near the main colony where they socialize together. If the breeding colony is a mixture of species, the gull club is still only comprised of Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
These Lesser Black-backed Gulls have been seen nesting in urban areas along with herring gulls.
The Lesser Black-backed Gulls winter along the coast, estuaries, and sometimes in garbage dumps.
The preferred habitat for the Lesser Black-backed Gulls is the shoreline. The Lesser Black-backed Gulls eat fish, marine invertebrates like squid, insects, smaller birds, eggs, carrion, and human garbage. The Lesser Black-backed Gulls will capture prey while walking or swimming, as well as steal food from other birds. The Lesser Black-backed Gull will eat seeds, berries, and worms on land. The Lesser Black-backed Gulls have been seen eating some small mammals.
The Lesser Black-backed Gull is common in Europe, occasionally seen in North America as a visitor. The Lesser Black-backed Gull species breeds on the Atlantic coast of Europe, and it winters in West Africa. There are some who breed in Iceland, with some wintering in North America.
This Lesser Black-backed Gull species is of least concern to the IUCN. The Lesser Black-backed Gull's numbers have actually grown by at least a third since the 1970s.