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European Herring Gull Larus argentatus
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species is classified as Least Concern. It has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is currently thought to be part of a longer-term fluctuation following previous increases. Should new evidence suggest that it is continuing to decline the species would warrant uplisting to Near Threatened.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomic note
Larus argentatus and L. smithsonianus (the latter including vegae and mongolicus) (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) were previously lumped as L. argentatus following Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993).

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 1,370,000-1,620,000 mature individuals which equates to 2,060,000-2,430,000 individuals (BirdLife International 2015).

Trend justification
L. a. argentatus was listed as stable from 1990-2000, while L. a. argenteus declined during the same period (Wetlands International 2014). Recently published data estimates the population to be decreasing at a rate approaching 30% in 39 years (three generations) (BirdLife International 2015). However it is thought that these recent declines are most likely to form part of a longer-term fluctuation following previous increases. Recent declines may in part be due to better waste management (N. Baccetti, T. Lehtiniemi, H. Meltofte, L. Raudonikis, K. Steiof and R. Virkkala in litt. 2015). The population should be closely monitored to establish whether it shows any sign of stabilising.

The species inhabits coastal and near-coastal areas (del Hoyo et al. 1996) but may also forage inland on large lakes and reservoirs, fields and refuse dumps (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It has no specific breeding habitat (del Hoyo et al. 1996) but may show a preference for rocky shores with cliffs, outlying stacks or islets (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998), otherwise nesting on rocky and grassy islands, sandy beaches (del Hoyo et al.1996), dunes (Richards 1990), gravel bars, saltmarshes, rocky outcrops, buildings, claypits (del Hoyo et al. 1996), tundra with reeds or hummocks (Flint et al. 1984), swampy lowlands near lakes and on river islands (Flint et al.1984). When inland on migration the species also shows a preference for large river valleys (Flint et al. 1984). Although Herring Gulls exploit refuse tips and farmland extensively all year round, their breeding distribution is extremely coastal compared to other Larus gulls (other than L. marinus) (Gibbons et al. 1993).

The species has a highly opportunistic diet and will exploit almost any superabundant source of food (del Hoyo et al.1996). It takes fish, earthworms, crabs and other marine invertebrates (e.g. molluscs, starfish or marine worms), adult birds, bird eggs and young, rodents, insects (e.g. ants), berries and tubers (e.g. turnips) (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It also scavenges at refuse dumps, fishing wharves and sewage outfall zones and frequently follows fishing boats (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Huppop and Wurm 2000). The species shows increasing foraging distances later in the breeding period (Belant et al. 1993). The feeding range has been variously reported as 35 km (for breeding herring gulls in a Dutch colony) (Spaans 1971), 41 km (in Westphalia, Germany, outside the breeding season) (Sell and Vogt 1986), 50 km (for breeding birds in Morocco) (Witt et al. 1981) and 70 to 100 km (for herring gulls breeding in Denmark) (Klein 1994). Several other studies have reported shorter foraging distances (Andersson 1970, Verbeek 1977, Witt et al. 1981, Sibley and McCleery 1983, Cramp and Simmons 1983, Nogales et al. 1995, Pons and Migot 1995, BirdLife International 2000). Refuse tips are frequently exploited by foraging individuals (Sibley and McCleery 1983, Nogales et al. 1995, Pons and Migot 1995) and so the feeding distribution of some colonies will be determined by location of refuse dumps (BirdLife International 2000). On the basis of a simple density model of birds at sea, it has been estimated that 95% of herring gulls breeding on Terschelling in the Dutch Wadden Sea foraged within 54 km of the colony (BirdLife International 2000).

Northern breeding populations of this species are migratory (del Hoyo et al. 1996) although populations in the south are nomadic or completely non-migratory (Flint et al. 1984). Outside of the breeding season the species is highly gregarious and gathers in large flocks in favoured sites (Richards 1990, Snow and Perrins 1998). Individuals show foraging site fidelity (Shamoun-Baranes and van Loon 2006)

The species is threatened by coastal oil pollution (Gorski et al. 1977) and is susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the virus (Melville and Shortridge 2006). It is also susceptible to colliding with offshore wind farms (Bradbury et al. 2014). It is vulnerable to being caught as bycatch in fisheries, including longlines, trawls and gillnets (Anderson et al. 2011, Zydelis et al. 2013).

Žydelis, R., Small, C. and French, G. 2013. The incidental catch of seabirds in gillnet fisheries: A global review. Biological Conservation 162: 76-88.

Anderson, D.W. 1970. Chlorinated hydrocarbons: their dynamics and eggshell effects in herring gulls and other species. PhD Thesis.

Anderson, O.R.J., Small, C.J., Croxall, J.P., Dunn, E.K., Sullivan, B.J., Yates, O. and Black, A. 2011. Global seabird bycatch in longline fisheries. Endangered Species Research 14: 91-106.

BirdLife International. 2000. The Development of Boundary Selection Criteria for the Extension of Breeding Seabird Special Protection Areas into the Marine Environment. OSPAR Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic. Vlissingen (Flushing).

BirdLife International. 2015. European Red List of Birds. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.

Bradbury, G., Trinder, M., Furness, B., Banks, A.N., Caldow, R.W.G. and Hume, D. 2014. Mapping Seabird Sensitivity to Offshore Wind Farms. PLoS ONE 9(9): e106366.

Bregnballe, T., Noer, H., Christensen, T.K., Clausen, P., Asferg, T., Fox, A.D. and Delany, S. 2006. Sustainable hunting of migratory waterbirds: the Danish approach. In: G. Boere, C. Galbraith, and D. Stroud (eds), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 854-860. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Cramp, S.; Simmons, K. E. L. 1983. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic vol. III: waders to gulls. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International.

del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., and Sargatal, J. 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Flint, V.E., Boehme, R.L., Kostin, Y.V. and Kuznetsov, A.A. 1984. A field guide to birds of the USSR. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey.

Gibbons, D. W.; Reid, J. B.; Chapman, R. A. 1993. The new atlas of breeding birds in Britain and Ireland 1988--1991. T. and A. D. Poyser, Calton, U.K.

Gorski, W.; Jakuczun, B.; Nitecki, C.; Petryna, A. 1977. Investigation of oil pollution on the Polish Baltic coast in 1974-1975. Przeglad Zoologiczny 21(1): 20-23.

Huppop. O. and Wurm, S. 2000. Effects of winter fishery activities on resting numbers, food and body condition of large gulls Larus argentatus and L-marinus in the south-eastern North Sea. Marine Ecology Progress Series 194: 241-247.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Klein, R. 1994. Silbermöwen Larus argentatus und Weisskopfmöwen Larus cachinnans auf Mülldeponien in Mecklenburg - erste Ergebnisse einer Ringfundanalyse . Vogelwelt 115: 267-286.

Melville, D. S.; Shortridge, K. F. 2006. Migratory waterbirds and avian influenza in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway with particular reference to the 2003-2004 H5N1 outbreak. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 432-438. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Morris, R.D. and Black, J.E. 1980. Radiotelemetry and herring gull foraging patterns. Journal of Field Ornithology 51: 110-118.

Nogales, M., Zonfrillo, B. and Monaghan, P. 1995. Diets of adult and chick herring gulls Larus argentatus argentatus on Ailsa Craig, south-west Scotland. Seabird 17: 56-63.

Pons, J. M., Migot. P. 1995. Life-history strategy of the herring gull: changes in survival and fecundity in a population subjected to various feeding conditions. Journal of Animal Ecology 64: 592-599.

Richards, A. 1990. Seabirds of the northern hemisphere. Dragon's World Ltd, Limpsfield, U.K.

Sell, M., Vogt., T. 1986. [Ecology of Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) wintering inland: selection and attachment of feeding and roosting sites in the Ruhr region.]. Vogelwarte5 107: 18-3.

Shamoun-Baranes, J., van Loon, E. 2006. Energetic influence on gull flight strategy selection. Journal of Experimental Biology 209(18): 3489-3498.

Sibley, C.G. and Monroe, B.L. 1990. Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Sibley, C.G. and Monroe, B.L. 1993. A supplement to 'Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World'. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.

Sibley, R. M., McCleery, R. H. 1983. Increase in weight of herring gulls while feeding. Journal of Animal Ecology 52: 35-50.

Snow, D.W. and Perrins, C.M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic, Volume 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Sokolov, L. V.; Gordienko, N. S. 2008. Has recent climate warming affected the dates of bird arrival to the Il'men Reserve in the Southern Urals? Russian Journal of Ecology 39: 56-62.

Spaans, A. L. 1971. On the feeding ecology of the Herring Gull Larus argentatus Pont, in the Northern part of the Netherlands. Ardea 59(3-4): 98-188.

Verbeek, N. A. M. 1977. Timing of primary moult in adult Herring Gulls and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. J. Ornithol. 118: 87-92.

Wetlands International. 2014. Waterbird Population Estimates. Available at: (Accessed: 12 June 2014).

Witt, H-H., Crespo, J., de Juana, E. & Varela, J. 1981. Comparative feeding ecology of Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii and the Herring Gull L. argentatus in the Mediterranean. Ibis 123: 519-526.

Further web sources of information
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Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Hatchett, J., Malpas, L., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & Ashpole, J

Morkunas, J., Lehtiniemi, T., Steiof, K., Baccetti, N., Yésou, P., Petkov, N., Bourne, W., Virkkala, R., Raudonikis, L. & Mischenko, A.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Larus argentatus. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Herring gull (Larus argentatus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Laridae (Gulls, Terns, Skimmers)
Species name author Pontoppidan, 1763
Population size 1370000-1620000 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 1,540,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment