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Lesser Black-backed Gull


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Common across Europe, the Lesser Black-backed Gull is an uncommon, but regular visitor to eastern North America. Its occurrence on this continent increased dramatically over the last third of the 20th century.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
20.5–25.2 in
52–64 cm
53.1–59.1 in
135–150 cm
19.2–35.3 oz
545–1000 g
Other Names
  • Goéland brun (French)

Cool Facts

  • The Lesser Black-backed Gull is divided into several different subspecies that differ in the darkness of the back. Nearly all individuals that reach North America are of the graellsii subspecies that breeds in Iceland, Britain, and western Europe. It is the palest of the forms, with its back being much lighter than the black wingtips.
  • At a Lesser Black-backed Gull breeding colony, immatures, nonbreeding adults, and failed and off-duty breeders form "clubs" near the colony, where they spend time "loafing," resting, and preening. In colonies where other gull species are mixed in, clubs tend to be composed of one species only.
  • The oldest recorded Lesser Black-backed Gull was a male, and at least 9 years, 3 months old when he was observed in the wild in South Carolina in 2014, and identified by his band. He had been banded in Maine in 2008.



Breeds on tundra, along coasts, and on islands in lakes and larger rivers. Winters along coastal regions, bays, estuaries, along lakes and rivers, and at garbage dumps.



Fish, marine invertebrates, insects, birds, eggs, carrion, garbage.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
1–4 eggs
Egg Description
Olive with markings variable or lacking.
Condition at Hatching
Chicks semiprecocial at hatching; may leave nest cup in several days. Covered in cryptically colored down.
Nest Description

Depression in fairly substantial mound of seaweed, grasses, other vegetation, and general debris, lined with finer material; less often shallow scrape with sparse lining. Placed on ground. Nests in colonies.

Nest Placement



Ground Forager

Captures prey while walking or swimming, dips food from surface of water. Steals food from other birds.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

There is little information on Lesser Black-backed Gull population numbers and trends. The species rates a 9 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, and is not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds Watch List. The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan lists it as a Species of Moderate Concern. Lesser Black-backed Gull appear to be expanding both their wintering and breeding ranges.


Range Map Help

Lesser Black-backed 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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