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Mew Gull


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

One of the smallest of the "white-headed" gulls, the Mew Gull is common along Pacific Coast beaches in winter. It also occurs in Eurasia, where it is known at the "Common Gull."

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
16.1–18.1 in
41–46 cm
42.1–44.9 in
107–114 cm
12.7–21.2 oz
360–600 g
Other Names
  • Common Gull (British), Short-billed Gull
  • Goéland cendré (French)
  • Gaviota cana (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Mew Gull has an extensive breeding range, with three distinct forms that are sometimes considered different species. The European form, known as the "Common Gull" has less white in the wingtips than the American form, or "Short-billed Gull," and its first-year plumage is much paler. The eastern Asian form known as "Kamchatka Gull" is larger, with a larger bill, and pale yellow eyes.
  • Although the Mew Gull is a common bird along the Pacific Coast, it is a rarity in the East. Birds that appear along the Atlantic Coast are likely to be from Europe.
  • The Mew Gull is the only "white-headed" gull that regularly uses trees for nesting.
  • The European form of the Mew Gull, the "Common Gull," closely resembles the American form in adult plumage, but the two forms differ more in juvenile and first winter plumages. The American form is all dirty gray, with a mostly dark brown tail and dusky wings. The European form is much more black and white, with a paler head and underparts, a white rump and upper tail, a black band on the tip of the tail, blackish wingtips, and a dark line along the back of the wing (the secondaries).
  • The oldest recorded mew Gull was at least 20 years, 8 months old when it was found in British Columbia in 2007. It had been banded in Alaska in 1986.



Breeds in tundra, marshy areas, ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, islands, and coastal cliffs. Winters in nearshore waters and coasts, river estuaries, beaches, mudflats, harbors, and sewage outfalls and treatment ponds.



Fish, insects, earthworms, grain, garbage, marine invertebrates.


Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
1–5 eggs
Egg Description
Light olive with variable amount of dark brown speckles.
Condition at Hatching
Chicks semiprecocial at hatching; may leave nest cup in several days. Covered in cryptically colored down.
Nest Description

Shallow cup of vegetation, made of dry grass, twigs, moss, lichens, small roots, or bark, frequently with a stone centrally placed. Placed in tree or on ground.

Nest Placement



Ground Forager

Flutters over water, head down, and legs dangling to pick up bits of food from water surface. Sometimes paddles against current, picking up food as it floats past. Occasionally dives into water for fish.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

Mew Gull is not threatened in any part of its range. The North American Waterbird Conservation Plan estimated a continental population of 160,000-240,000 birds. The species rates a 10 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score. Mew Gull is not on the 2016 State of North America's Birds Watch List.


Range Map Help

Mew Gull Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

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