lb28's picture

Herring Gull or Lesser Black Backed?

Could anyone help me distinguish these species of gull?

How do you tell the difference between Herring and Lesser/Greater Black Backed?

Thank you!



RoyW's picture

Learn the adults first!

Juvenile/immature gulls can be tricky because they are often very similar with 'patchy' brown plumage.

Start by learning the adult gulls, concentrating on things like the leg and back colour, as well as less obvious characters like size and structure.
This is extremely over simplified, but basically:
Herring Gull = pale grey to mid grey back and pink legs.
Lesser Black-backed Gull = dark grey to almost black back (usually contrasting with black wing tips) and yellow legs.
Great Black-backed Gull = almost black to black back (usually no contrast with black wing tips) and pink legs.

Structurally Greater Black-backed Gulls tend to be much larger and bulkier than the other species (although some Herring Gulls are almost as big), and Lesser Black-backed tend to be the smallest & slimmest of the three. Great Black-backed Gulls also tend to have a very deep heavy looking bill, and often look 'mean'.

The smaller Common Gull (common in the south only in winter), resembles a very small Herring Gull but never has a red spot on the bill, and has yellowish-green legs.