- Adults: White with gray back and wings, black wingtips with white spots, pink legs. Bright yellow beak with red spot, yellow eye
- Juveniles: Gray-brown, mottled feathers all over with a dark tail, dark beak
- Found all across North America, both coastal and inland
- They spend the winter on the West Coast of the US and Mexico and in the southeastern states of the US, and are in the Northeast year-round. They migrate through much of the middle of the United States to breeding grounds in northern Canada and Alaska
- They can be seen in almost any habitat, from docks, to beaches, to coastal shorelines, to garbage dumps fighting over human food
- They gather in almost any open space near food, often in packs
- They are omnivores (meaning they eat both meat and plants). They will eat fish, clams, mussels, crabs, insects, sea urchins, smaller seabirds, and even eggs of other gulls. These opportunistic feeders eat quite a lot of human trash and fish scraps as well, and are known to scavenge food from other gulls
- Great horned owls, peregrine falcons, bald eagles, gyrfalcons, short-eared owls, ravens, northern harrier hawks, black-crowned night herons, and great blue herons, red foxes, dogs, harbor seals, gray seals, raccoons, cats, and mink
- Herring Gulls prefer to drink freshwater but if they have to drink saltwater, they have glands over their eyes that secrete the salt so it doesn’t dehydrate them. The salt can be seen dripping out of their nostrils and down their bills.
- The species became quite rare during the 1800s when it was hunted for its eggs and feathers. From the 1930s to 1960s, the numbers of Herring Gulls increased rapidly due to protection from hunting, increased waste from fisheries to feed on, and less competition for food as humans reduced the populations of large fish, whales, and pinnipeds (seals and sea lions). Numbers leveled off during the 1970s and 80s and may now be going down again in some areas.
Sources: AllAboutBirds.org; Birds of North America.org; AnimalDiversity.org
Photo: Kevin Lee