Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus fuscus)

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The Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) is a large gull that breeds on the Atlantic coasts of Europe. It is migratory, wintering from the British Isles south to West Africa. It is a regular winter visitor to the east coast of North America, probably from the breeding population in Iceland.

Differences between adjacent forms in this ring are fairly small, but by the time the circuit is completed, the end members, Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull, are clearly different species. The Lesser Black-backed Gull measures 51–64 cm (20–25 in), 124–150 cm (49–59 in) across the wings and weighs 452–1,100 g (1.00–2.4 lb), with the nominate race averaging slightly smaller than the other two subspecies. Males, at average weight of 824 g (1.82 lb), are slightly larger than females, at an average of 708 g (1.56 lb). Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 38.3 to 45 cm (15.1 to 18 in), the bill is 4.2 to 5.8 cm (1.7 to 2.3 in) and the tarsus is 5.2 to 6.9 cm (2.0 to 2.7 in). A confusable species in Europe is Great Black-backed Gull. The Lesser is a much smaller bird, with slimmer build, yellow rather than pinkish legs, and smaller white “mirrors” at the wing tips. The adults have black or dark grey wings (depending on race) and back. The bill is yellow with a red spot which young peck at, inducing feeding (see fixed action pattern). The head is greyer in winter, unlike Great Black-backed.

Young birds have scaly black-brown upperparts and a neat wing pattern. They take four years to reach maturity. Identification from juvenile Herring Gulls is most readily done by the more solidly dark (unbarred) tertial feathers.

The call is a “laughing” cry like that of the Herring Gull (to which this species is closely related), but with a markedly deeper pitch.

They are omnivores like most Larus gulls, and they will eat fish, insects, crustaceans, worms, starfish, molluscs, seeds, berries, small mammals, eggs, small birds, chicks, scraps, offal, and carrion.

This bird from the photo is a Larus fuscus fuscus – Baltic Sea, eastern Scandinavia. Mantle jet black.

photo : Mihai BACIU


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