|Conservation status||Mostly remote from effects of human activities. Populations apparently stable or perhaps increasing. Numbers wintering in New England seem to have increased during the last century or so.|
|Family||Gulls and Terns|
|Habitat||Coastal, less frequent inland. During most seasons found in coastal regions, both in protected bays and estuaries and well offshore. Some occur in winter on Great Lakes and other large bodies of water inland. Nests on rocky cliffs, mostly in protected bays and fjords rather than on exposed coastline.|
Forages in flight by dipping to surface of water to pick up items or by plunging to just below surface; also feeds while swimming or walking.
2-3. Buff to olive, blotched with darker brown. Incubation is probably by both sexes; incubation period unknown. Young: Both parents probably feed young. Age of young at fledging not known.
Both parents probably feed young. Age of young at fledging not known.
Mostly fish. Aside from a variety of small fish, also feeds on mollusks, crustaceans, carrion, berries, seeds. Around colonies of smaller seabirds, may take eggs or young, and often scavenges dead young birds. Also may feed on refuse around garbage dumps, docks, fishing boats.
Breeding behavior not well known. Probably does not breed until four years old. Nests in colonies, often in same colonies with Black-legged Kittiwakes, sometimes with Glaucous Gulls. In such mixed colonies, Iceland Gulls usually nest higher than kittiwakes, lower than Glaucous Gulls. Nest site is usually on ledge of a cliff facing the sea. Nest (probably built by both sexes) is a bulky mound of grasses, moss, 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
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Eastern populations winter mostly in coastal eastern Canada (from Labrador south to New England) and around Iceland, with smaller numbers on the Great Lakes and in northwestern Europe. Those from central Arctic Canada (“Thayer’s” type) mostly migrate southwest to winter along the Pacific Coast.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsLike Herring Gull, a variety of croaks, squeaks, and screams.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Iceland Gull
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Iceland Gull
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.