Great Black-backed Gull

Larus marinus




Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Buff, olive or brown with brown spots

Number of Eggs:

2 - 3

Incubation Days:

26 - 29

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

on ground atop small pile of grasses or seaweed, often sheltered in ridges of cliff.

Nest Material:

Grasses, seaweed, moss, feathers, debris, and sticks.


Most do not migrate



Great Black-backed Gull: The world's largest gull. White head, black upperparts, white underparts, large yellow bill with red spot, variably pale-eyed with red orbital ring, pink legs.

Range and Habitat

Great Black-backed Gull: Breeds in northeastern North America from North Carolina to Newfoundland and Labrador and the west coast of Greenland. Spends summers farther down the Atlantic Coast to Florida and may wander inland to the Great Plains. Also found in northwestern Europe. Found in various coastal habitats: rocky and sandy coasts, inland estuaries, and wetlands.

Breeding and Nesting

Great Black-backed Gull: Monogamous; colonial but occasionally solitary. Nest of grasses, seaweed, moss, feathers, debris, and sticks built by both sexes on ground atop small pile of grasses or seaweed, often sheltered in ridges of cliff; two to three buff, olive, or brown eggs with brown spots. Incubation ranges from 26 to 29 days and is carried out by both sexes. Chicks are fed by both parents.

Foraging and Feeding

Great Black-backed Gull: Pugnacious, predatory and opportunistic. Omnivorous. Eats carrion, fish, refuse, eggs and young of other birds, mollusks, crustaceans, rodents, berries, and insects. Steals food from other birds and scavenges on beaches. May take prey as large as other gulls, cormorants, and rabbits.


Great Black-backed Gull: Deep calls "gowl," or "gawp." Laughlike "hah-hah-hah," or "owk-owk." On breeding grounds low screeching "keeeeeeee-aaaahh."

Similar Species

Great Black-backed Gull: Herring Gull is smaller with much lighter gray wings. Lesser Black-backed Gull is smaller and has lighter back, thinner bill, and yellow legs.


Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X