American herring gull, or Smithsonian Gull Facts

American herring gull

The American herring gull also called Smithsonian gull with its scientific name Larus smithsonianus or Larus argentatus smithsonianus is a big gull that breeds in North America, the place it’s handled by the American Ornithologists’ Union as a subspecies of herring gull (L. argentatus).

The adult American herring gull is white with grey again and wings, black wingtips with white spots, and pink legs.

The immature American herring gull is gray-brown and is darker and extra uniform than European herring gulls, with a darker tail.

It happens in quite a lot of habitats together with coasts, lakes, rivers, and rubbish dumps. Its broad weight loss program contains invertebrates, fish, and plenty of different gadgets.

An American herring gull normally nests close to water, laying around three eggs in a scrape on the bottom.


The American herring gull is a closely constructed massive gull with a protracted highly effective bill, full chest, and sloping brow.

The male American herring gull is 60–66 cm (24–26 in) lengthy and weighs 1,050–1,650 g (2.31–3.64 lb). Females are 53–62 cm (21–24 in) lengthy and weigh 600–900 g (1.3– lb).

The wingspan of an American herring gull is 120 to 155 cm (47 to 61 in).

Amongst normal measurements, the wing chord of an American herring gull is 41.2 to 46.eight cm (16.2 to 18.Four in), the American herring gull bill is 4.Four to six.2 cm (1.7 to 2.Four in) and the tarsus is 5.5 to 7.6 cm (2.2 to 3.0 in).

With greater than 90% of the information of smithsonianus in Europe being made up of birds in first-winter plumage, that is actually the best-represented plumage sort on the European facet of the Atlantic, Not less than in Eire, the place the overwhelming majority of European Herring Gulls are of the paler argenteus sort, the first-winter smithsonianus might be moderately conspicuous amongst a mid-winter gull flock.

Smithsonianus seems to exhibit much more particular person variation than argenteus of the identical age besides, discovering birds within the jap USA was a problem that will not appeal to some consideration in a routine search of a gull flock on the European facet of the Atlantic.

Lots of the characters which assist different juvenile smithsonianus and European Herring Gulls, most notably these referring to the upper- and undertail-coverts, wings, and tail, stay primarily unchanged in first-winters and due to this fact don’t have to be repeated right here. Extra characters on which to pay attention when confronted with an attainable first-winter smithsonianus embody:

Uniformity of underparts By mid-winter, many first-year smithsonianus are just a little light and fewer evenly darkish than they’d have been as juveniles however are nonetheless extra uniform beneath the nice majority of European Herring Gulls.

The latter usually have paler, extra mottled, or streaked underparts, however, they can often be extra uniform (and consequently darker trying), thus resembling smithsonianus (plate 21 and 34).

Stable darkness on decrease hindneck and higher mantle Sometimes, smithsonianus reveals an extra uniformly brownish decrease hindneck and higher mantle that merge with the uniform brownish underparts.

The greyness of breast-sides and flanks As a part of the post-juvenile molt of body-feathers, much first-winter smithsonianus purchase plain, contrastingly slategrey-colored feathers on the breast-sides and flanks, steadily extending to the remainder of the underparts.

Probably due to their normally extra mottled underparts, European Herring Gulls present process the identical molt present rather more refined distinction between the outdated (brownish) and new (extra greyish) feathers.

Breeding adults have a white head, rump, tail, and underparts, and a pale grey again and upper wings. The wingtips are black with white spots often known as “mirrors” and the trailing fringe of the wing is white.

The underwing is grayish with darkish tricks to the outer main feathers.

The legs and ft are usually pink however can have a bluish tinge, or often be yellow. The bill of the American herring gull is yellow with a crimson spot on the decrease mandible.

The attention is vibrant, pale to medium yellow, with a naked yellow or orange ring round it. In winter, the pinnacle and neck are streaked with brown.

First-cycle chicken in Texas

Younger birds take 4 years to succeed in absolutely grownup plumage. Throughout this time they undergo a number of plumage levels and might be very variable in look.

First-winter birds are gray-brown with a darkish tail, a brown rump with darkish bars, darkish outer primaries and pale interior primaries, darkish eyes, and a darkish bill of the American herring gull, which normally develops a paler base by means of the winter.

The top is commonly paler than the physique. Second-winter birds sometimes have a pale eye, a pale bill with black tip, pale head and start to point out grey feathers on the again.

Third-winter birds are nearer to adults however nonetheless have some black on the bill and brown on the physique and wings and have a black band on the tail is visible in American herring gull.

American herring gull


It has no tune however has quite a lot of cries and calls. The “lengthy name” is a collection of notes throughout which the pinnacle is dipped then raised.

The “choking name” is produced throughout courtship shows or territorial disputes.

Juvenile birds emit high-pitched plaintive cries to elicit feeding conduct from a dad or mum and can also emit a clicking misery name when a dad or mum all of a sudden flies off.

Pale-headed looks Much smithsonianus purchase a pale head in late winter on account of put on (Howell 2001) and attributable to their darkish physique this function could draw consideration to a smithsonianus amongst a flock of European Herring Gulls.

The significance of this function has been overstated just a little as solely a small proportion actually is pale-headed and darker-bodied European birds are prone to additionally often look pale-headed for exactly the identical causes.

European Herring Gulls from the jap Baltic space are sometimes strikingly pale-headed in winter (Klaus Malling Olsen pers comm).

Scapular sample The vary of particular person variation in first-winter scapular-markings exhibited by each smithsonianus and European Herring Gulls, and the diploma of overlap, making it very troublesome to determine any specific patterns that are perhaps thought of ’unique’.

There are, nonetheless, sure attribute patterns in smithsonianus that aren’t so regular of their European counterparts.

It will be important, right here, to tell apart between often-retained juvenile scapulars (normally, the rearmost bigger feathers), that are plain, brownish, considerably worn and with pointed suggestions, and (freshly) molted first-winter feathers, which have broader extra rounded suggestions.

Essentially the most distinctive of those (once more, normally seen among the much bigger rearmost and decrease row(s) of feathers) are moderately darkish and plain, with or without a diffuse darker center (plate 38).

Due, maybe, to an inclination in lots of smithsonianus for the post-juvenile molt of the scapulars (through which the juvenile scapulars are changed with first-winter feathers) to be a moderately protracted course of, there’s usually more of quite a lot of scapular patterns within the one chicken than is mostly the case in European birds; the reason for that is that the looks of feathers in the identical era can change relying on the time of year an American herring gull molted.

In most European Herring Gulls, the sample of the first-winter scapulars tends to be moderately constant, every particular person feather exhibiting a lot the identical markings as the following, the general impact being of a collection of standard transverse pale and darkish bars.

Nonetheless, there are lots of exceptions to those basic tendencies and, at greatest, sure scapular patterns ought to be considered providing little greater than marginal supporting proof within the identification of vagrant first-year smithsonianus in Europe.

Underwing-coverts The uniformity of the axillaries (particularly) and underwing-coverts, and the overall ’smokiness’ with an absence of apparent patterning, might be hanging in smithsonianus.

In argentatus and argenteus, these areas are usually paler in tone and extra mottled in texture.

The underwing-coverts of graellsii, nonetheless, might be very like smithsonianus however a number of different variations from smithsonianus (see above) normally preclude critical confusion.

There’s a tendency for each smithsonianus and argentatus to develop a pale base to the bill fairly early of their first winter, with probably the most excessive birds approaching first-year Glaucous Gull in this respect. In argenteus, the distinction within the bill sample tends to be extra subdued till later within the winter

Comparable species

Grownup European herring gulls are similar to American herring gulls however these of the subspecies L. a. argenteus is smaller than many American birds whereas these of the northern subspecies L. a. argentatus is sometimes darker grey above.

European birds lack the lengthy grey tongues on the sixth, seventh, and eighth primaries and stable black markings on the fifth and sixth primaries which can be proven by American Herring Gulls.

First-winter European birds have extra checkered upperparts, extra streaked underparts, and a paler rump and base to the tail.

Distribution and habitat

The breeding of the American herring gull extends throughout the northern part of North America from central and southern Alaska to the Nice Lakes and the northeast coast of the US from Maine south to North Carolina. American herring gull breeds over most of Canada other than the southwest and Arctic areas.

The American herring gull is current all yr in southern Alaska, the Nice Lakes, and the northeast USA however most birds winter to the south of the breeding vary so far as Mexico with small numbers reaching Hawaii, Central America, and the West Indies.

Vagrants have reached Colombia and Venezuela and there’s a report from Ecuador and one other from Peru.

The primary European report was of a chicken ringed in New Brunswick which was caught on a ship in Spanish waters in 1937 and there has been a lot of further information from Western Europe since 1990. The primary British report was in 1994 in Cheshire.

American herring gull normally nests in colonies close to the water on coasts, islands, and cliffs. It additionally nests on rooftops in some cities.

American herring gull feeds at sea and on seashores, mudflats, lakes, rivers, fields, and refuse dumps. An American herring gull roosts in open areas near feeding websites.


It has various weight loss programs together with marine invertebrates reminiscent of mussels, crabs, sea urchins, and squid; fish reminiscent of capelin, alewife, and smelt; bugs; and different birds together with their chicks and eggs.

It usually feeds on carrion and human refuse. Meals are plucked from the floor of the shore or sea or are caught by dipping underwater or by shallow plunge-diving.

Additionally, they feed on clams and mussels by dropping them from a top on laborious surfaces reminiscent of roads or rocks to interrupt their shells. There’s some query about whether or not this conduct is realized or innate, though it appears to be realized.


Pairs kind in March or April. The nest is a scrape on the bottom lined with vegetation reminiscent of grass, seaweed, and feathers.

Often three eggs are laid over a four- to six-day interval. An American herring gull is 72 mm (2.eight in) lengthy and is variable in coloration with brown markings on a pale blue, olive, or cinnamon background.

The eggs are incubated for 30–32 days starting when the second egg is laid. The younger American herring gull fledges after 6–7 weeks and is fed within the nest space for a number of extra weeks.

They proceed to be cared for by the dad and mom till they’re about 6 months outdated. Each dad and mom are concerned about constructing the nest, incubating the eggs, and feeding the younger.

It has been noticed that some pairs cement an in-depth bond, staying in watchful proximity of one another year-round; Different gulls show extra independence however could take the identical mate every spring.


The American herring gull species grew to become fairly uncommon through the 19th century when it was hunted for its eggs and feathers.

From the 1930s to 1960s, it elevated quickly attributable to safety from searching, elevated waste from fisheries to feed on, and fewer competitors for small fish and invertebrates as people diminished the populations of enormous fish, whales, and pinnipeds (seals).

The numbers of the American herring gull leveled off through the 1970s and 80s and should now be declining in some areas.

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