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Iceland Gull


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A pale gull of the north Atlantic, the Iceland Gull breeds in the high Arctic and winters south of the Maritime Provinces only in small numbers. The American race known as "Kumlien's Gull" is one of the most variable of all gulls in plumage characters, and no two seem to have the same amount of dark on the wingtips

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
19.7–23.6 in
50–60 cm
45.3–53.9 in
115–137 cm
28.9–38.8 oz
820–1100 g
Other Names
  • Goéland arctique, Goéland de Kumlien (French)
  • Gaviota del ártico (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Iceland Gull is divided into two subspecies. The western form known as "Kumlien's Gull," breeds in Canada and shows variable amounts of dark in the wingtips. The form that breeds in Greenland and winters from there to Europe, has very little or no dark in its wingtips.
  • The Iceland Gull and the Thayer's Gull show many similarities and may be the same species. A range of darkness in the wingtips can be seen from fully dark ones in the western Arctic to fully white in eastern Canada, with lots of variation in between.
  • The oldest recorded Iceland Gull was at least 4 years, 8 months old, when it was seen alive in the wild in eastern Canada and identified by its band.



Breeds in coastal colonies on rocky precipices of steep cliffs from low to high Arctic, normally facing fjords or sounds, though occasionally up to several kilometers inland. Winters along shores of salt water and less often freshwater lakes and rivers.



Fish, carrion, offal in harbors, marine invertebrates, occasionally eggs and young of other birds; some terrestrial plants, algae, and berries in late summer.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
1–3 eggs
Egg Description
Pale grayish brown, spotted and blotched with dark brown.
Condition at Hatching
Alert and mobile. Covered in cryptically colored down.
Nest Description

Shallow bowl of moss and grass, placed on narrow cliff ledge.

Nest Placement



Aerial Dive

Picks food off surface of water, food typically swallowed while flying. Ternlike searching flight and fishing behavior.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

There is little information on population trends of Iceland Gull. The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan estimates a continental breeding population of more than 100,000 birds, rates the species an 11 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, and lists it as a Species of Low Concern. Iceland Gull is not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List.


Range Map Help

Iceland Gull Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings


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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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