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Lesser Black-backed Gull Identification

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The Four Keys to ID

  • Size & Shape

    A medium to large gull with rather long, pointed wings (wingtips extend far beyond the tail when perched). Although smaller and slimmer than other “large gulls” like Herring Gull, this species has a larger head and thicker bill than “medium” gulls like Ring-billed.

    Relative Size

    Larger than a Ring-billed Gull, smaller than a Herring Gull.

    Relative Sizebetween crow and goosebetween crow and goose

    • Both Sexes
      • Length: 20.5-25.2 in (52-64 cm)
      • Weight: 19.2-35.3 oz (545-1000 g)
      • Wingspan: 53.1-59.1 in (135-150 cm)

Regional Differences

Taxonomists often recognize five or six subspecies of Lesser Black-backed Gull. North American records refer mostly to the western European subspecies graellsii. It has a paler gray back and upperwings than intermedius (northwestern Europe) and is much paler than fuscus (in the Baltic region), both of which have been reported as very rare vagrants in eastern North America. Farther east, in Russia, many ornithologists group the subspecies heuglini, taimyrensis, and barabensis with Lesser Black-backed Gull. Some of the Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the U.S. Pacific coast appear to be consistent with this Russian group.