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Mew Gull

Larus canus ORDER: CHARADRIIFORMES FAMILY: LARIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

One of the smallest of the "white-headed" gulls, the Mew Gull is common along Pacific Coast beaches in winter. It also occurs in Eurasia, where it is known at the "Common Gull."

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At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
16.1–18.1 in
41–46 cm
Wingspan
42.1–44.9 in
107–114 cm
Weight
12.7–21.2 oz
360–600 g
Other Names
  • Common Gull (British), Short-billed Gull
  • Goéland cendré (French)
  • Gaviota cana (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Mew Gull has an extensive breeding range, with three distinct forms that are sometimes considered different species. The European form, known as the "Common Gull" has less white in the wingtips than the American form, or "Short-billed Gull," and its first-year plumage is much paler. The eastern Asian form known as "Kamchatka Gull" is larger, with a larger bill, and pale yellow eyes.
  • Although the Mew Gull is a common bird along the Pacific Coast, it is a rarity in the East. Birds that appear along the Atlantic Coast are likely to be from Europe.
  • The Mew Gull is the only "white-headed" gull that regularly uses trees for nesting.
  • The European form of the Mew Gull, the "Common Gull," closely resembles the American form in adult plumage, but the two forms differ more in juvenile and first winter plumages. The American form is all dirty gray, with a mostly dark brown tail and dusky wings. The European form is much more black and white, with a paler head and underparts, a white rump and upper tail, a black band on the tip of the tail, blackish wingtips, and a dark line along the back of the wing (the secondaries).

Habitat


Shore-line

Breeds in tundra, marshy areas, ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, islands, and coastal cliffs. Winters in nearshore waters and coasts, river estuaries, beaches, mudflats, harbors, and sewage outfalls and treatment ponds.

Food


Omnivore

Fish, insects, earthworms, grain, garbage, marine invertebrates.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
1–5 eggs
Egg Description
Light olive with variable amount of dark brown speckles.
Condition at Hatching
Chicks semiprecocial at hatching; may leave nest cup in several days. Covered in cryptically colored down.
Nest Description

Shallow cup of vegetation, made of dry grass, twigs, moss, lichens, small roots, or bark, frequently with a stone centrally placed. Placed in tree or on ground.

Nest Placement

Ground

Behavior


Ground Forager

Flutters over water, head down, and legs dangling to pick up bits of food from water surface. Sometimes paddles against current, picking up food as it floats past. Occasionally dives into water for fish.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Not threatened in any part of its range.

Credits

  • Moskoff, W., and L. R. Bevier. 2002. Mew Gull (Larus canus). In The Birds of North America, No. 687 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Range Map Help

Mew Gull Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings