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Herring Gull

Larus argentatus

Faoileán scadán

Status: Resident along all Irish coasts, with some interchange between Ireland and west Britain.

Conservation Concern: Red-listed in Ireland due to a large decline in the breeding population. The European population has been assessed as Secure.

Identification: A large gull, which in adult plumage has light grey upperwings, showing black tips with white 'mirrors' (white at the very tips surrounded by black); the rest of the plumage is white. Similar to Common Gull in colouration, but separated by size, Common Gull is much smaller and shows larger, more conspicuous white 'mirrors' at the wing tip as an adult. Adult birds have heavy yellow bills with a orange spot on the lower bill, the head is pure white in the summer and streaked in the winter. The legs are pink at all ages. Herring Gulls have four age groups and attain adult plumage after three years when they moult into adult winter plumage. Juveniles are brown with finely patterned feathers which fade in the first year, especially the wing and tail feathers which are retained through the first summer. Juvenile and first year birds, do not have any plain grey adult like feathers in the upperparts and can be difficult to tell apart from immature Lesser and Greater Black-back Gulls. Grey in the upperparts develops from the second winter onwards, initially mostly in the mantle and back and becomes more extensive over the wings as the bird moves towards maturity. Younger immature birds have a dark terminal tail band which becomes less prominent as they get older, adult birds lack this band completely.

Similar Species: Lesser and Great Black-backed Gulls.

Call: Calls are strident and loud.

Diet: Both predator and scavenger, often feeds on the coast and follows fishing boats and uses landfill sites.

Breeding: Breeds in colonies around the coast of Ireland and also inland in Co. Donegal and Co. Galway. The biggest colony in Ireland is on Lambay island off Co. Dublin with over 1,800 nests.

Wintering: Wdespread on the coast and inland.

Where to See: Not a difficult species to see. A widespread breeder around the coast of Ireland and breeds on roofs in County Dublin and Co. Waterford especially.

Monitored by: Wintering birds are monitored through the Irish Wetland Bird Survey. Breeding seabirds are monitored through surveys carried out every 15-20 years, the last was Seabird 2000, which was undertaken between 1998 & 2002.

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