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Merlin Bird ID

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    Iceland Gull

    Silhouette GullsGulls

    Iceland Gull

    Larus glaucoides
    • ORDER: Charadriiformes
    • FAMILY: Laridae
    Basic Description

    Iceland Gulls breed on narrow cliff ledges in the Arctic and forage gracefully over the water, often plucking fish from the surface without landing. Many winter in ice-choked Arctic waters, but some come south to the Northeast, Great Lakes, and West Coast. Their plumage is variable, especially the adults’ wingtips, which can range from pure white in the east to black in the west. The darker-winged “Thayer’s” gull of the west used to be considered a different species; the two were lumped in 2017.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Iceland GullRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    Gull watching takes patience, but it can be rewarding. Unless you plan to explore the Arctic, you’ll want to look for Iceland Gulls in winter along Atlantic or Pacific coasts or around the Great Lakes. Iceland Gulls are fairly regular but they’re not numerous, so look for large groups of resting gulls and look through them for a medium-sized gull with very pale upperparts. On the East Coast, your task is a bit easier: you can look for a gull with white or pale gray wingtips (the “Kumlien’s” form). On the West Coast, look for the Thayer’s form: a bit smaller than a Herring Gull, with a more slender bill, heavily smudged neck, and sometimes a dark eye.

    Other Names
    • Gaviota groenlandesa (Spanish)
    • Goéland arctique (French)
    • Cool Facts