The Mew Gull is a widely found gull species, though often mistaken for related species to the point it is called the common gull.
All in a Name
The Mew Gull is also called the Common Gull and Short-billed Gull. The scientific name for this species is Larus Canus, which means grey gull. In French, it is called Goéland cendré. The Mew Gull species was identified by Linnaeus in 1758. The Asian subspecies were identified during the mid-1800s.
The Mew Gull is the smallest white headed gull in North America. The Mew Gull are around fourteen inches long with a 42 inch wing span. The Mew Gull are fairly short with small, unmarked yellow bills. The Mew Gull weigh between 13 and 22 ounces, 360 to 600 grams.
Males and females look alike. The Mew Gull have a medium grey back, white head, white under-parts, black wingtips with white spots, and greenish yellow legs. The related California Gull is larger, with greenish grey legs and a black ring on its bill. The bill sometimes has a poorly defined band near the tip that cause it to be confused with a ring-billed gull.
The juveniles have grey-brown bodies with light tipped back feathers. Their under-parts are a lighter color. Juveniles have black bills and pink legs. In their first summer, the back turns grey while the head turns white. By the second winter, the back is mostly grey while there are a few brown feathers.
The Mew Gull nest in colonies ranging from a few breeding pairs to hundreds. These gulls create a shallow indentation in the vegetation to build a nest, lining it with bark, grass and lichens. The Mew Gull lay one to five eggs in a clutch. The eggs are light olive green in color with brown speckling. The eggs hatch in less than a month, and the chicks need another month to fledge
The Mew Gull is a ground forager. The Mew Gull eats fish, insects, worms, marine invertebrates, grain, and garbage. The Mew Gull like to pick up bits of food from the water’s surface. The Mew Gull occasional dive into the water for fish but rarely go after the food other gulls or pelicans have caught.
The gull has a high pitched laughing cry.
In the summer, the Mew Gull are found in Alaska and Canada. This is the only white headed gull that will nest in trees. The Mew Gull prefer to breed in tundra, marshes, islands, and coastal cliffs.
The Mew Gull has a large range. The Mew Gull is found along the Pacific Coast of North America and in Eurasia. The mainland Russian population is called Larus canus heinei or the Russian common gull. This group is a little larger on average than the North American Mew Gulls. The Kamchatka peninsula population is called Larus canus kamtschatschensis. These birds have a pale iris and extensive blacks on the wingtips.
The Mew Gull is mostly found along the Pacific Coast in the winter.
The Mew Gull's worldwide population is estimated in the millions. It is of least concern by the IUCN.
There is a European form of the Mew Gull, though the American form is all a dirty grey when a juvenile, while the European one has a paler head and more stark black and white coloring along with a black band on the tail. The European gulls have white tales with sharply defined black terminal bands.
The species is called the common gull because Thomas Pennant thought it was the most numerous member of its genus.