The Herring Gull, Larus argentatus, is a large gull (up to 26 inches or 66 cm long), and is the most abundant and best known of all gulls along the shores of Asia, western Europe, and North America. It breeds across North America, Europe and Asia. Some Herring Gulls, especially those resident in colder areas, migrate further south in winter, but many are permanent residents, e.g. those on the lower Great Lakes, on the east coast of North America or at the North Sea shores. Herring Gulls are also abundant around inland garbage dumps, and some have even adapted to life in inland cities.
This group has a ring distribution around the northern hemisphere. Differences between adjacent forms in this ring are fairly small, but by the time the circuit is completed, the end members, Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull, are clearly different species.
The Association of European Rarities Committees recognises six species:
The two following taxa are classified as subspecies of Larus argentatus by some authorities such as the American Ornithologists' Union and Handbook of the Birds of the World. Others such as the Association of European Rarities Committees and British Ornithologists' Union now regard them as one or two separate species.
Several other gulls have been included in this species in the past but are now normally considered separate, e.g. Yellow-legged Gull (L. michahellis), Caspian Gull (L. cachinnans), Armenian Gull (L. armenicus) and Heuglin's Gull (L. heuglini).
Juvenile and first-winter birds are mainly brown with darker streaks and have a dark bill and eyes. Second-winter birds have a whiter head and underparts with less streaking and the back is grey. Third-winter individuals are similar to adults but retain some of the features of immature birds such as brown feathers in the wings and dark markings on the bill.
Herring Gull flocks have a loose pecking order, based on size, aggressiveness and physical strength. Communication between these birds is complex and highly-developed - employing both calls and body language. Two identical vocalizations can have very different (sometimes opposite) meanings, for example - depending on the positionings of the head, body, wings and tail relative to each other and the ground in the calling gull.
Unlike many flocking birds, Herring Gulls do not engage in social grooming and keep physical contact between individuals to a minimum. Outside of the male/female and parent/chick relationship, each Herring Gull attempts to maintain a respectful 'safe distance' from others of its kind. Any breach of this results in fighting, though severe injuries are seldom inflicted.
Herring Gulls are known to be capable of seeing ultraviolet light.
Juveniles use their beaks to "knock" on the red spot on the beaks of adults to indicate hunger. Parents typically disgorge food for their offspring when they are "knocked". The young birds are able to fly 35-40 days after hatching.
Seabird population declines as eagles in Maine recover Black- backed gulls down 62 percent, herring gulls down 25 percent between 1996 and 2008
Aug 06, 2011; GREAT DUCK ISLAND According to researchers on this uninhabited, remote island, each attack is accompanied by distinctive, high-...