Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus)



The Lesser Black-backed Gull is a large gull, similar in size compared the Herring Gull. Because of the darker back it can be confused with the much larger Greater Black-backed Gull. Important identification features are the yellow legs and only very small white wing-tips. Compared to the Herring Gull it is not as common, though these are sociable birds that breed colonial.


We can find this gull as breeding birds in Scandinavia, Iceland, the northern Parts of Britain on the shores of the Baltics and the southernmost colonie is the German Island of Heligoland in the southern part of the North Sea (German Bight). During migration and winter they are out on the Atlantic and populate the shore lines of the Wadden Sea, the British Isles and those of Western Europe.


lesser black-backed gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull


Geographical Variations


There are five known subspecies of the Lesser Black-backed Gull of which three are distributed in Europe:

  • Larus fuscus Linnaeus
  • Larus fuscus intermedius Schiøler 1922
  • Larus fuscus graellsii A.E. Brehm 1857
  • Larus fuscus heuglini Bree 1876 (rare guest in Spain)
  • Larus fuscus taimyrensis Buturlin 1911 (rare guest in Spain)



Description - Characteristics: Lesser Black-backed Gull


Breeding – Clutch – Measurements – Habitat – Diet - Threats



Order: Charadriiformes

Family: Laridae

Genus: Larus

Species: Lesser Black-backed Gull


Scientific Name: Larus fuscus


Names and Synonyms of the Lesser Black-backed Gull


Name in German: Heringsmöwe

Name in Czech: Racek žlutonohý

Name in Slovak: Čajka tmavá

Name in Hungarian: Heringsirály

Name in Croat: Mali tamnoleđi galeb

Name in French: Goéland brun

Name in Spanish: Gaviota Sombría

Name in Portuguese: Gaivota-d'asa-escura

Name in Dutch: Kleine Mantelmeeuw

Name in Italian: Zafferano

Name in Iceland: Sílamáfur

Name in Faroer: Bidna, Likka

Name in Finnish: Selkälokki

Name in Danish: Baltisk Sildemåge

Name in Swedish: Silltrut

Name in Polish: Mewa żółtonoga

Name in Russian: Клуша

Name in Kazakh: Бозшағала


Characteristics of the Lesser Black-backed Gull


Distribution: Distributed in northern Europe, on the shorelines of Great Britain, Shetlands, Orkneys, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Baltics, southernmost colony on Heligoland Island.


Movements: Migrational.


Wintering: Wadden Sea – Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium – France, Spain and Portugal, West Mediterranean, from North Africa to the Middle East.


Habitat: Shorelines of all kind, also inlands on large lakes and alongside river banks.


Behaviour: diurnal, colonial.


Field Characteristics: Very similar to Greater Black-backed Gull , though significantly smaller. Size is not a defining feature, as this works only when Larger Black-blacked Gulls are around. Wings and back are black, but mostly lighter compared to Greater Black-backed Gull.


Large white strip and the back end of the wing, which can hardly be seen on the hand feathers. Yellow legs. Immature individuals have 3 winter and summer plumages, changing into adult moult only in the fourth year, in the following August into first non-breeding plumage.


Bill: yellow, lower bill with red spot.


legs: yellow.






Size: 48-56 cm

Weight: 100-1300 g

Wingspan: 117-134 cm


Voice: Sounds similar to Herring Gull though deeper.




Maturity: not before the third year, mainly when changing into adult plumage.

Mating Season: April to Mai, monogamous seasonal breeding pair.


Clutches per breeding season1 clutch

Breeding: Mai to June.


Nest: ground nest, made of plants, colonial. Also in mixed colonies with Herring Gulls.


Clutch: 2-4 eggs

Eggs: creme-coloured broad oval egg with speckles and stains.


Recurrent Clutch: possibly when clutch is lost during early days.


Laying Interval: 2 days.


Begin of incubating: after second egg.


Incubation: 26-31 days, both parents share the task of incubating.


Fledging: chicken leave the nest shortly after hatching. Fledging after 35-40 days.


Dependency: After fledging the juveniles are fully able to fly though depend on parents for a short while.





Food: small fish, swimming crabs, eggs, nestlings from other clutches.


Longevity: about 30 years.


Threats: Disturbances by people in colony, larger birds of prey, skuas, foxes, dogs.