Herring Gull

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Common Name: Herring Gull
Scientific Name: Larus argentatus

Size: 25 inches (63.5 cm)

Habitat: North America and Eurasia; Arctic regions of the northern hemisphere and the Atlantic coasts of Europe. 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.

Status: Least Concern. Global Population: 2,700,000 - 5,700,000 mature individuals.

Diet: Scavenge on rubbish tips and elsewhere, as well as seeking suitable small prey in fields, on the coast or in urban areas, or robbing plovers or lapwings of their catches. Despite their name, they have no special preference for herrings.

Nesting: Two to four eggs, usually three, are laid on the ground or cliff ledges in colonies, and are defended vigorously by this large gull. The eggs are a dark blotched, olive color. They are incubated for 28-30 days.

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.

Like most gulls, Herring Gulls are long lived, with a maximum age of 49 years recorded.

Cool Facts: It is the most abundant and best known of all gulls along the shores of Asia, western Europe, and North America. 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.

Found in Songbird ReMix Seabirds 1

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