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Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species 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 trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very 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). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
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.

Distribution and population
This species can be found breeding on coasts from the extreme north-west of Russia, along Scandinavia, on Baltic Sea coasts, on the coasts of north-western France, the United Kingdom and Ireland, across the north Atlantic in Iceland and southern Greenland and on the Atlantic coasts of Canada and the USA down to North Carolina. Individuals breeding in harsher environments will migrate south, wintering on northern coasts of Europe from the Baltic Sea to southern Portugal, and down North America as far south as the Carribean (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Trend justification
The overall population trend is increasing, although some populations are stable (Wetlands International 2006). This species has had stable population trends over the last 40 years in North America (data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count: Butcher and Niven 2007).

Behaviour The migratory movements of this species vary throughout its range, with high Arctic breeders migrating south for the winter but southern breeders only dispersing short distances (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The breeding season starts from early-April or mid-May with the species nesting in solitary pairs amidst colonies of other species or in small mixed-species colonies (del Hoyo et al. 1996) of up to 50-100 individuals (Richards 1990) (e.g. with Herring Gull Larus argentatus) (del Hoyo et al. 1996) in favourable locations (Richards 1990). The autumn migration occurs between July and November (peaking October-November) and the return migration to the breeding grounds occurs between March and April (Olsen and Larsson 2003). Outside of the breeding season the species is largely gregarious (Olsen and Larsson 2003). Habitat The species inhabits rocky or sandy coasts, estuaries and inshore and offshore waters, breeding on vegetated islands, dunes, flat-topped stacks, rocky shores (del Hoyo et al. 1996), flat beaches (Snow and Perrins 1998) and islands in saltmarsh (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species may also breed on undisturbed inland sites including islets in large freshwater lakes and rivers (Snow and Perrins 1998), fields and open moorland (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Diet The species is omnivorous and opportunistic, its diet consisting of fish, adult and young birds, birds eggs, mammals (e.g. rabbits, lemmings, rats and mice), insects, marine invertebrates (e.g. molluscs), carrion and refuse (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Breeding site The nest is a shallow cup constructed from grass, moss and seaweed and is positioned on sand, grass or bare rock substrates on vegetated islands, rocky ridges and outcrops, dunes (del Hoyo et al. 1996), flat beaches (Snow and Perrins 1998) and islands in saltmarsh among scrub (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species may also nest in undisturbed inland sites such as islets in large freshwater lakes and rivers (Snow and Perrins 1998), fields and open moorland (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Management information The breeding densities of this species in the Baltic Sea were unaffected by the removal of the introduced nest predator American mink Neovison vison from small offshore breeding islands (Nordstrom et al. 2003). The species is considered to be a threat to other bird species due to its predatory and opportunistic diet (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Utilisation The species is hunted for sport in Denmark (Bregnballe et al. 2006).

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

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; 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.

Nordström, M.; Högmander, J.; Nummelin, J.; Laine, J.; Laanetu, N.; Korpimäki, E. 2003. Effects of feral mink removal on seabirds, waders and passerines on small islands in the Baltic Sea. Biological Conservation 109: 359-368.

Olsen, K. M.; Larsson, H. 2004. Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America. Christopher Helm, London.

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

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

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L., Calvert, R.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Larus marinus. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016.

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 - Great black-backed gull (Larus marinus)

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Laridae (Gulls, Terns, Skimmers)
Species name author Linnaeus, 1758
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Increasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 1,070,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment