Herring Gull

General description.

Adults "Herring Gulls" have black wingtips with white spots, called "mirrors". The tail feathers are black. Bills are yellow with a red spot on the lower mandible. The eye is bright, pale to medium yellow, with a bare yellow or orange ring around it. In winter, the head and neck are streaked with brown.

Juvenile appearance.

Young birds take four years to reach fully adult plumage varying from dark brown features to paler ones along the way.

Breeding habits.

Pairs form in March or April. Some cement a close bond, staying in watchful proximity of each other year round. "Herring Gulls" breed from Alaska east across northern Canada to the Maritime Provinces then south along the Atlantic Coast as far as North Carolina. They breed and reside on lakes, rivers, estuaries and beaches.

Calls or song.

The "Herring Gull" screams a loud, rollicking, "kuk-kuk-kuk-yucca-yucca-yucca".

Population and distribution.

A common "seagull" inland and along all three coasts, the "Herring Gull" visits a variety of habitats including seashore, lakes, rivers and garbage dumps. The species became quite rare during the 19th century when it was hunted for its eggs and feathers. Since the 1960's, however, this "scavenger" has become abundant, probably due to the amount of food available at these dump sites. You will often see it drop clam shells, from a height, onto rocks, parking lots, etc. in order to extricate the soft interior. It has extended its range to the detriment of terns and "Laughing Gulls". These gulls winter in all but their northernmost breeding areas.

Nesting habits.

Both parents are involved in building the nest, incubating the eggs and feeding the young. The nest is a scrape on the ground lined with vegetation such as grass,seaweed and feathers. Usually three eggs, variable in color with brown markings on a pale blue, olive or cinnamon background are laid over a four to six day period. The young birds fledge after 6–7 weeks and are fed in the nest area for several more weeks. They continue to be cared for by the parents until they are about 6 months old.
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