Great Black-backed Gull (immature)
Habitat: The Great Black-backed Gull lives primarily along the coast of the North Atlantic. It can spend its winters far out to sea, but can also be found on the Great Lakes, and breeds on small islands, salt marshes, spoil islands, and barrier beaches.
Summer Range: Great Black-backed Gulls can be found all year on the east coast of North America from Labrador to North Carolina, and on the Great Lakes. They’re also found in northern Europe.
Winter Range: Great Black-backed Gulls winter from Newfoundland south to central Florida, and inland at large lakes and rivers throughout the Northeast. They are also found in Europe and northern Africa.
Food: Great Black-backed Gulls have a varied diet of fish, marine invertebrates, mammals, insects, birds, eggs, carrion, and trash. During the winter months, they catch fish driven to the ocean surface by humpback whales.
Breeding Behaviour: Young Great Black-backed Gulls remain near the nest area until they are about 50 days old. Some young may remain with their parents for months after leaving the breeding colony, but most join congregations of other immature gulls in places where food is easy to find.
Nest Type and Egg Description: This gull nests on rocky, grassy or sandy ground with little tall vegetation. This may be on coasts, islands, shores of inland lakes, or rocky peninsulas.
Conservation Status: Along with the southward expansion that has been observed for nearly 100 years, populations of this gull are increasing. This may be of concern for other colonial nesting birds such as terns and puffins for whom the Great Black-backed Gull can be a serious predator.
The increase in population corresponded to the decline of the feather trade that used the feathers of these birds among others for fashionable clothing in the 1800s. An increase in human garbage is also a likely contributor to the spread of this gull.
Information on this page compiled by Jessie Blake.
BirdLife International. http://www.birdlife.org
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. http://www.cosewic.gc.ca/eng/sct5/index_e.cfm
Cornell Lab of Ornithology. All About Birds. http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/.
Ehrlich, Paul R. 1988. The Birder’s Handbook. Simon and Schuster, New York.
Godfrey, Earl W. 1986. Birds of Canada. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa.
Hinterland Who’s Who. http://www.hww.ca
Leslie, Scott. 2006. Wetland Birds of North America. Key Porter Books, Toronto. NatureServe. InfoNatura. http://www.natureserve.org/infonatura/