European Herring Gull – One of the most common Gulls

The Herring Gull is one of the most common gulls in Europe. Upon first look it might be confused with the similar-looking but smaller Common Gull. The main identification features are a heavy yellow bill with red spot, flesh-pink long legs, mostly white, light grey back and wings, and white and black wing tips.

We find the Herring Gull at nearly every European coastal strip, inlands and anlongside rivers, streams and on lakes. They are gregarious birds and in coastal towns and villages openly beg people for something to eat. In some areas they have become even aggressive and try to steal food from people. So, be aware of the Herring Gull when on the seaside. 

herring gull seagull seabird Larus argentatus
European Herring Gull

Characteristics of the Herring Gull


Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Laridae
Genus: Larus
Species: Herring Gull

Scientific Name: Larus argentatus

Names and Synonyms of the Herring Gull

German: Silbermöwe
Czech: Racek stříbřitý
Slovak: Čajka striebristá
Hungarian: Ezüstsirály
Croat: Srebrnasti galeb
Spanish: Gaviota argéntea
Dutch: Zilvermeeuw
Italian: Gabbiano reale nordico
Iceland: Silfurmáfur
Faroer: Fiskimási, Fiskimási
Finnish: Harmaalokki
Danish: Sølvmåge
Swedish: Gråtrut
Polish: Mewa srebrzysta
Russian: Серебристая чайка

herring gull
Herring Gull in summer

Distribution – Movements – Wintering – Habitat – Behaviour

Distribution: Usually on the shores of Europe, Northern Africa and throughout the Mediterranean; Great Britain, Shetlands, Orkneys, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Baltics, Black Sea area, Turkey and Middle East.

Movements: Migratory, partly sedentary in Europe.

Wintering: Southern parts of North Sea (German Bight), throughout Wadden Sea (Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark), France, Spain, Portugal, western Mediterranean, Northern Africa, to Middle East, inlands of west, central and southeast Europe .

Habitat: Shores of all kind, also inlands, lakes and alongside rivers.

Behaviour: partly gregarious, diurnal.

herring gull
Herring Gull

Measurements and Voice

Size: 54-60 cm
Weight: c. 1000 g
Wingspan: 123-148 cm

Voice: Noisy. Shrill shreaks.


Maturity: Usually between 3rd to 7th year, mainly from 5th year.
Mating Season: probably before begin of breeding season.

Clutches per breeding season1 clutch
Breeding: between May to mid of July.

Nest: massive pile of green plants and leaves, breeds solitary and colonial.

herring gull with chicken
Herring Gull with chicken

Clutch: 2-3 eggs
Eggs: creme-coloured broad oval egg with speckles and stains.

Recurrent Clutch: possibly when clutch is lost in the early days, two additional clutches possible.

Laying interval: 2-3 days.
Begin of incubating: after first egg.

Incubation: 25-33 days, both parents share the task of incubating.

Fledging: Chicken leave the nest early, wandering around; though stay close to the nest. Fledging after 35-59 days.

Dependency: After Fledging the juveniles will be fed by parents for another 19-47 days.

herring gull
Herring Gull


Food: Wide range of food, crustaceans and mollusks, shellfish, carrion, fish, echinoderms, insects, also rubbish. In urban areas Herring Gulls pester people for food. It can happen that the birds manage to steal fish and chips bought from a chippy.

Longevity: usually 20 to 30 years of age.

Mortality: unknown.

Threats: Avian flu, parasites, sea eagles and other large birds of prey, skuas, scavengers, dogs and foxes.

herring gull
Herriang Gull in autumn / fall


Bauer, Hans-Günther, Bezzel, Einhard et. al. (HG), Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 1+2, Sonderausgabe 2012, Aula Verlag, Wiebelsheim

Bauer, Hans-Günther, Bezzel, Einhard et. al. (HG), Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 3, Literatur und Anhang, Aula Verlag Wiebelsheim, 2. vollständig überarbeitete Auflage 1993

Bezzel, Einhard, Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Non-Passeriformes, Band 1, AULA-Verlag Wiesbaden, 1985

Bruun/Singer/König/Der Kosmos Vogelführer, Franck’sche Verlagshandlung Stuttgart, 5. Auflage 1982

Glutz von Blotzheim, Urs et. al (HG), Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 8/1, Charadriiformes (3. Teil), Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft Wiesbaden, 1982

Svenson, Lars et. al, Der Kosmos Vogelführer, Franck-Kosmos Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Stuttgart, 2. Auflage 2011

herring gull
Herring Gull

Image Credits

Featured Image and all other images: by ©Raymond Loyal

herring gull
Immature Herring Gull having something to say

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