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Little Gull

Hydrocoloeus minutus ORDER: CHARADRIIFORMES FAMILY: LARIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The smallest gull in the world, the Little Gull is common across Eurasia. A few pairs have been nesting in North America since the 1960s, and the species is now a rare, but regular, visitor to the East Coast and the Great Lakes.

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Appearance

Gulls
Gulls

Adult Description

  • Small gull.
  • Back and wings pale gray with white wingtips.
  • Underside of wings blackish.
  • Underparts white.
  • Head black during breeding.
  • Dark spot behind eyes and on cap in winter.

Immature Description

Juvenile Plumage: Much blackish on head, neck, and back, a black bar across the wing, and a black tail tip.
First Winter (Basic I) Plumage: similar to nonbreeding adult, but with brownish black bar across the base of the wing, much black in the outer wing, and a black band across the tip of the tail.
First Summer (Alternate I) Plumage: Like first winter, but with full or partial hood. Dark on back fades with wear. Center of tail tip often white.
Second Winter (Basic II) Plumage: Like adult, but variable black markings on upper wingtip, and paler under wings.

Range Map Help

Little Gull Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • First-year

    Little Gull

    First-year
  •  

    Little Gull

     
    • © Chris Wood, Ithaca, New York, April 2007
  • Breeding adult

    Little Gull

    Breeding adult
    • © Tom Johnson, Manitoba, Canada, June 2008
  •  

    Little Gull

     
    • © Luke Seitz, Biddeford, Maine, August 2011

Similar Species

  • Terns have longer, thinner wings, and have forked tails.
  • Black-headed Gull has a longer and heavier, red bill, blackish under only the outer wing feathers, and shows a white triangle on top of the wing. In breeding plumage the Black-headed Gull actually has a brownish hood that does not reach the back of the nape.
  • Ross's Gull has dark underwings, but lacks dark hood or dark cap, and has a pointed tail.
  • Bonaparte's Gull is larger, with longer, more pointed wings, a white triangle in the outer wings, and white on the underside of the wings. Immature lacks the dark cap, and has a more narrow and broken "M" across the back.
  • Immature Black-legged Kittiwake has a black line across the nape of its neck.