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Herring Gull, Laure Wilson Neish
Photo © Laure Wilson Neish

Photo: Laure Wilson Neish
Breeding evidence - Herring Gull
Breeding evidence
Probability of observation - Herring Gull
Probability of observation
Elevation plot - Herring Gull
Elevation plot

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Herring Gull
Larus argentatus
Landscape associations:

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
0 - 1267 m
Conserv. status:
Not at risk
Global importance
of B.C. population:
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
25 15 69 30
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
Brit. Col.1970 - 2012 -4.43 (-11.9 - 2.72)Low
Canada1970 - 2012 -3.5 (-6.55 - -0.43)Medium

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
0.140.03  0.1 0.33
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
0.140.03 0.04  0.13
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains
 0.4    0.33

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce
 0.14 0.13

Characteristics and Range The Herring Gull is among the largest gulls to occur regularly in British Columbia. Its global range spans much of the Northern Hemisphere. In North America, it breeds across the continent in the boreal, arctic and Great Lakes regions, and south to the mid-Atlantic Coast states, and winters along most of both Pacific and Atlantic coastlines into the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, and inland at unfrozen lakes, especially around landfills. It is a very familiar species in eastern North America but is somewhat more local in the west, including British Columbia, especially as a breeding species. Unusually for a gull, it was nearly extirpated from North America in the 19th Century by plumage hunters and egg collectors. It has since recovered through protection, and may now be more numerous than historically, possibly assisted by abundant food in human refuse (Pierotti and Good 1994).

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat The Herring Gull breeds mostly on lakes and rivers across northern and central parts of British Columbia. The Atlas reconfirmed clusters of breeding in northwestern British Columbia, across the central plateau regions and sparingly at sites in the south-central interior, and detected probable breeding at locations like Kotcho Lake and the Liard River in the far north where breeding was known when The Birds of British Columbia was published in 1990. The Herring Gull may be expanding its breeding range within the province, since the Atlas records breeding for the first time in three regions: the north coast near Prince Rupert, west Williston Lake in the Peace River watershed, and the Thompson River drainage.

The Herring Gull nests singly or in compact colonies safe from predation on rocky islets, headlands, boulders, and forested islets on lakes. Other gull species, American White Pelicans, and Arctic Terns may also nest in the same colonies (Campbell et al. 1990). The only large colony reported during the Atlas (approximately 80 nests) is on the Chilcotin Plateau; just five other colonies of 3-6 nests were reported. The Herring Gull prefers lakes and rivers with sheltered, predator-free nest sites and nearby foraging habitat in a wide variety of biogeoclimatic zones.

Conservation and Recommendations At present the Herring Gull is not of conservation concern in British Columbia. It would be desirable to inventory all nesting sites within the province to establish a baseline for population studies.

Chris R. Siddle

Recommended citation: Siddle, C.R. 2015. Herring Gull in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. [23 Apr 2024]

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