European Herring Gull

Larus argentatus

The European Herring Gull is a large gull , and is the most abundant and best known of all gulls along the shores of western Europe. It breeds across Northern Europe, Western Europe, Scandinavia and the Baltic states. Some European Herring Gulls, especially those resident in colder areas, migrate further south in winter, but many are permanent residents, e.g. in the British Isles, Iceland, or on the North Sea shores. European Herring Gulls are also abundant around inland garbage dumps, and some have even adapted to life in inland cities.
flying - European Herring Gull flying - European Herring Gull European Herring Gull,France,Geotagged,Larus argentatus,Spring

Appearance

The male European Herring Gull is 60–66 cm long and weighs 1050-1250 grams while the female is 55–62 cm and weighs 800-980 grams . The wingspan is 137–150 cm . Adults in breeding plumage have a grey back and upperwings and white head and underparts. The wingtips are black with white spots known as "mirrors" . The bill is yellow with a red spot and there is a ring of bare yellow skin around the pale eye. The legs are normally pink at all ages but can be yellowish, particularly in the Baltic population which was formerly regarded as a separate subspecies "''L. a. omissus''". Non-breeding adults have brown streaks on the head and neck. Male and female plumage is identical at all stages of development, however adult males are often larger.

Juvenile and first-winter birds are mainly brown with darker streaks and have a dark bill and eyes. Second-winter birds have a whiter head and underparts with less streaking and the back is grey. Third-winter individuals are similar to adults but retain some of the features of immature birds such as brown feathers in the wings and dark markings on the bill. The European Herring Gull attains adult plumage and reaches sexual maturity at an average age of four years.
Herring Gull The herring gull is distinguished from the common gull because he is averaging nearly 20 cm taller, with a total length of about 60 cm. The male is on average slightly larger than the female. In the Netherlands and Belgium (Larus argentatus argenteus) is the kind of distinguishing the flight of the gull by the much stronger beak and the white spot in the black tip of the wing: the gull which is large and oval, with the herring gull smaller and more irregularly shaped. The adult plumage the herring gull has a white head, tail and bottom; the back and the top of the wings are silvery gray. The young of the herring gull is the first winter brown with dark wings and tail. Second winter birds are brown with white on the head and tail and lighter to gray upper parts. Third winter birds have clothes that are similar to the adult plumage but here and there a brown stain. Depending on the subspecies, the bird pink, reddish flesh-colored, greenish or yellow legs. Characteristic of the herring gull, the red spot on the lower mandible. The clutch usually consists of three eggs. European Herring Gull,Geotagged,Larus argentatus,Netherlands,Summer

Naming

* ''L. a. argentatus'', the nominate form, breeds in Scandinavia and north-west Russia. Northern and eastern populations migrate south-west in winter. It is a large, bulky gull with extensive white in the wingtips.
⤷  ''L. a. argenteus'', sometimes known as the British Herring Gull breeds in Western Europe in Iceland, the Faroes, Britain, Ireland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Many birds are resident while others make short-distance migratory journeys. It is smaller than ''L. a. argentatus'' with more black and less white in the wingtips and paler upperparts.

The two following taxa are classified as subspecies of ''Larus argentatus'' by some authorities such as the American Ornithologists' Union and ''Handbook of the Birds of the World''. Others such as the Association of European Rarities Committees and British Ornithologists' Union now regard them as one or two separate species.

⤷  ''L. smithsonianus'', American Herring Gull, breeds in Alaska, Canada and the north-east United States. Many birds migrate southwards in winter, reaching as far as Central America and the West Indies. Immature birds tend to be darker and more uniformly brown than European Herring Gulls and have a dark tail.
⤷  ''L. vegae'', Vega Gull, breeds in north-east Siberia. It winters in Japan, Korea, eastern China and Taiwan.

Several other gulls have been included in this species in the past but are now normally considered separate, e.g. Yellow-legged Gull , Caspian Gull , Armenian Gull and Heuglin's Gull .


Adult European Herring Gulls are similar to Ring-billed Gulls but are much larger, have pinkish legs, and a much thicker yellow bill with more pronounced gonys. First-winter European Herring Gulls are much browner, but second and third-winter birds can be confusing since soft part colors are variable and third-year Herring Gull often show a ring around the bill. Such birds are most easily distinguished by the larger size and larger bill of European Herring Gull.

The European Herring Gull can be differentiated from the closely related, slightly smaller Lesser Black-backed Gull by the latter's dark grey back and upperwing plumage and its yellow legs and feet.
Gull | Larus canus  Common gull,European Herring Gull,Geotagged,Germany,Larus argentatus,Larus canus

Behavior

European Herring Gull flocks have a loose pecking order, based on size, aggressiveness and physical strength. Adult males are usually dominant over females and juveniles in feeding and boundary disputes, whilst adult females are typically dominant when selecting nest sites. Communication between these birds is complex and highly developed — employing both calls and body language. Two identical vocalizations can have very different meanings, for example — depending on the positioning of the head, body, wings and tail relative to each other and the ground in the calling gull.

Unlike many flocking birds, European Herring Gulls do not engage in social grooming and keep physical contact between individuals to a minimum. Outside of the male/female and parent/chick relationship, each gull attempts to maintain a respectful 'safe distance' from others of its kind. Any breach of this results in fighting, though severe injuries are seldom inflicted.

European Herring Gulls are known to be capable of seeing ultraviolet light.

Parasites of European Herring Gulls include the fluke ''Microphallus piriformes''.
Gull enjoying an inflight breakfast A gull inflight with its prey European Herring Gull,Larus argentatus,birds,fish eating birds,gull,seagull,shore birds,water birds

Reproduction

During courtship, the hen will approach the cock on his own territory with a hunched, submissive posture whilst making begging calls . If the cock chooses not to attack her and drive her away, he will respond by assuming an upright posture and making a mewing call. This is followed by a period of synchronised head-tossing movements, after which the cock will then regurgitate some food for his prospective mate. If this is accepted, copulation will follow. A nesting site will then be chosen by both birds. European Herring Gulls are almost exclusively sexually monogamous and may pair up for life, provided that the couple are successful in hatching their eggs.

Two to four eggs, usually three, are laid on the ground or cliff ledges in colonies, and are defended vigorously by this large gull. The eggs are a dark blotched, olive color. They are incubated for 28–30 days. Breeding colonies are predated by great black-backed gulls, harriers, corvids, herons and raccoons.

Juveniles use their beaks to "knock" on the red spot on the beaks of adults to indicate hunger. Parents typically disgorge food for their offspring when they are "knocked". The young birds are able to fly 35–40 days after hatching and fledge at six weeks of age. Chicks are generally fed by their parents until they are 11–12 weeks old but the feeding may continue up to six months of age, if the young gull continues to beg. The male feeds the chick more often than the female before fledging, the female more often post-fledging.

Like most gulls, European Herring Gulls are long lived, with a maximum age of 49 years recorded. Raptors and seals occasionally prey on the non-nesting adults.
Seagull on the german north sea shore A seagull on a beach chair waiting for a chance to steal some food fron an inattentive tourist... Europe,birds,seagull

Food

These are omnivores and opportunists like most ''Larus'' gulls, and will scavenge from garbage dumps, landfill sites, and sewage outflows, with refuse comprising up to half of the bird's diet. It also steals the eggs and young of other birds , as well as seeking suitable small prey in fields, on the coast or in urban areas, or robbing plovers or lapwings of their catches. European Herring Gulls may also dive from the surface of the water or engage in plunge diving in the pursuit of aquatic prey, though they are typically unable to reach depths of greater than 1–2 metres due to their natural buoyancy. Despite their name, they have no special preference for herrings — in fact, examinations have shown that echinoderms and crustaceans comprised a greater portion of these gulls' stomach contents than fish, although fish is the principal element of regurgitations for nestlings. European Herring Gulls can frequently be seen to drop shelled prey from a height in order to break the shell. In addition, the European Herring Gull has been observed using pieces of bread as bait with which to catch goldfish. Vegetable matter such as roots, tubers, seeds, grains, nuts and fruit is also taken to an extent.

European Herring Gulls may be observed rhythmically drumming their feet upon the ground for prolonged periods of time in a behaviour that superficially resembles Irish stepdancing. This is for the purpose of creating vibrations in the soil, driving earthworms to the surface, which are then consumed by the gull. It is believed that these vibrations mimic those of digging moles, eliciting a surface escape behaviour from the earthworm, beneficial in encounters with this particular predator, which the European Herring Gull then exploits to its own benefit in a similar manner to human worm charmers.

Whilst the European Herring Gull is fully capable of consuming seawater, utilizing specialized glands located above the eyes to remove excess salt from the body , it will drink fresh water in preference, if available.

References:

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Status: Least concern
EX EW CR EN VU NT LC
Taxonomy
KingdomAnimalia
DivisionChordata
ClassAves
OrderCharadriiformes
FamilyLaridae
GenusLarus
SpeciesL. argentatus