Yellow-legged Gull

Larus michahellis

55-67cm

Appearance

This bird is quite similar to the Herring Gull; the best way to distinguish it is by noting the yellow legs, but it is also slightly more robust looking and its head is bigger. The back is grey, as are the upperwings, and there is black on the wing-tips which is spotted white (more black than the Lesser Black-backed Gull). There's a red spot on the yellow bill, a thin reddish orange ring around the eye; winter adults may have a small and variable amount of dark streaking on the head. Juveniles and first-winter birds are grey-brown on the back and wing coverts, and the wings are dark elsewhere. When compared to the Herring Gull juvenile, the head, neck and underparts are streaked but paler on the Yellow-legged Gull. It takes three years for juveniles to develop adult plumage.

Habitat

Predominately a coastal bird, though may feed on inshore water and rubbish dumps.

Character

Tends to feed on the tideline, separate from other large gulls, though can associate with Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Food

Eats fish, shellfish, small mammals, carrion and plant materials.

Breeding

Seldom breeds in Britain. Female lays 2-4 eggs which are then incubated by both parents for 28-30 days. Hatchlings depart nest after 2-3 days but don't stray far; they're able to fly at 35-40 days old and soon gain their independence.

Population

Not very much is known about this bird's movements, though it's suspected juveniles depart breeding colonies and head either north along the coast of Europe, or south along Africa's coast. Low numbers of breeding pairs have been recorded, between one and four each year since 1997.

Observation Tips

This bird is most often seen in winter, but some of the population is usually present in varying numbers year-round. Often found scavenging amidst groups of Herring Gulls.

Voice

Has a lower-pitched, more nasally 'kyow' than Herring Gull.
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