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Herring Gull Identification

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The Four Keys to ID

  • Size & Shape

    Herring Gulls are large gulls with hefty bills and robust bodies. In flight, they look barrel-chested and broad-winged compared to smaller species such as Ring-billed Gulls.

    Relative Size

    Larger than a Ring-billed Gull, smaller than Western or Great Black-backed Gull.

    Relative Sizebetween crow and goosebetween crow and goose

    • Both Sexes
      • Length: 22.1-26.0 in (56-66 cm)
      • Weight: 28.2-44.1 oz (800-1250 g)
      • Wingspan: 53.9-57.5 in (137-146 cm)

Regional Differences

Herring Gulls vary considerably across the Northern Hemisphere, and this combined with their tendency to hybridize with other gull species causes headaches in both taxonomy and identification. By sight, the different types of Herring Gulls are difficult to distinguish, and only the American Herring Gull (Larus argentatus smithsonianus) is likely to be seen in North America. European Herring Gulls (L . a. argentatus) and Yellow-legged Gulls (Larus michahellis, recently designated a separate species) are very rare visitors to eastern North America. The Vega Gull (L. a. vegae), a subspecies with a darker gray back, breeds in northwest Alaska and northeast Asia, but is very rare in the rest of North America.