Photo: Joe Fuhrman/Vireo

Glaucous Gull

Larus hyperboreus

A big, pale, ghostly gull of the far north. The only large gull common in the high Arctic, although a couple of small gulls are successful there as well. At various times it may fill the role of either predator or scavenger. Generally found around cold waters, but a few Glaucous Gulls (mostly young birds) may leave the Arctic and move far south in winter, sometimes reaching Florida, Texas, or northwestern Mexico.
Conservation status Widespread and common in far north; not much affected by human activities. No obvious trend in population. An adaptable bird, perhaps less vulnerable to the effects of climate change than other Arctic species.
Family Gulls and Terns
Habitat Mainly coastal. At most seasons favors coastal bays and estuaries, but also occurs well offshore at times; small numbers may be found around large lakes well inland in winter. Nests on cliff ledges, islands, beaches.
A big, pale, ghostly gull of the far north. The only large gull common in the high Arctic, although a couple of small gulls are successful there as well. At various times it may fill the role of either predator or scavenger. Generally found around cold waters, but a few Glaucous Gulls (mostly young birds) may leave the Arctic and move far south in winter, sometimes reaching Florida, Texas, or northwestern Mexico.
Photo Gallery
  • adult, breeding
  • juvenile
  • immature (1st year)
  • adult, nonbreeding
Feeding Behavior

Feeds as both a predator and a scavenger; also steals food from other birds. Forages while walking or swimming; in flight, may swoop down to pick items from surface of water, or may catch smaller birds in the air.


Eggs

3, sometimes 2-4. Olive to buff, blotched with dark brown. Incubation is by both sexes, 27-28 days. Young: Both parents feed young. Downy young may leave nest a few days after hatching, but remain in general area. Age at first flight probably about 45-50 days, with young becoming independent soon thereafter.


Young

Both parents feed young. Downy young may leave nest a few days after hatching, but remain in general area. Age at first flight probably about 45-50 days, with young becoming independent soon thereafter.

Diet

Omnivorous. Diet highly variable, includes fish, mollusks, crustaceans, marine worms, sea urchins, insects, birds, eggs, berries, seaweed, carrion. Often scavenges refuse around towns, fishing boats.


Nesting

Breeds in colonies or in isolated pairs. Nest site is on cliff top, flat rocky ground, rocky outcrop; sometimes on ice or snow. Nest (built by both sexes) is a mound of grasses, moss, seaweed, and debris, with a shallow depression at the top.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Many remain in winter as far north as there is open water. A few move well south along both coasts of United States, and to Great Lakes; scattered singles may turn up anywhere inland or on Gulf Coast.

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Migration

Many remain in winter as far north as there is open water. A few move well south along both coasts of United States, and to Great Lakes; scattered singles may turn up anywhere inland or on Gulf Coast.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Hoarse croaks and screams.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

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