information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Herring gull (Larus argentatus)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.
Only coastal and marine records shown



The herring gull is the most common gull on British coasts. Larus argentatus is a large gull reaching lengths of 60 cm and with a wing span up to 1.48 m. The adult plumage is white with a broad grey mantle along the top of the wings. The wing tips are black with small white mirrors (white patches) and the head may be streaked with brown in Autumn. The bill is yellow with a red spot on the lower tip (gonys). The legs are pink. Juveniles are a mottled brown with a dark bill. Grey upperparts, white head and tail develop from second winter onwards and the yellow bill also develops gradually.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Widespread around all British coasts during the breeding season and inland all year round.

Global distribution



The herring gull prefers to nest on rocky cliffs, islets and offshore islands, although other habitats including sand dunes, shingle banks and urban areas are, increasingly, being used.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Large gull, up to 60 cm length and 1.48 m wingspan.
  • Pale grey upperparts, white head and tail (adults).
  • Pink legs.
  • Yellow bill with red spot on gonys (adults).

Additional information

The herring gull is an opportunist feeder, both predator and scavenger. The diet is varied, including fish, crustaceans, molluscs, birds, eggs and insects. This gull may be observed trampling on wet sand or grass to bring up worms, or dropping molluscs from a height to break them open. Please note that distribution maps are compiled using records for both breeding and wintering populations. For more specific distribution and abundance records please refer to maps compiled by The British Trust for Ornithology, available at

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Further information sources

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    This review can be cited as:

    Sweet, N. A. 2008. Larus argentatus Herring gull. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 19-09-2018]. Available from:

    Last Updated: 13/10/2008