Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
Great Black-backed Gull, John Muir CP, East Lothian, Scotland, June 2002 - click for larger image Scotland

The Great Black-backed Gull is found around the coasts of western and northern Europe, Iceland and on the east coast of North America as far south as North Carolina. It usually breeds on the coast or small islands but can be found inland where there is little human disturbance.

Great Black-backed Gull, John Muir CP, East Lothian, Scotland, June 2002 - click for larger image It can be confused with Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus. Although it is generally some 25% larger than the Lesser Black-backed Gull this can be difficult to judge. Other features are its generally heavier look, broader, less pointed wings and more massive bill. Clinchers are the pink rather than yellow legs and the greater amount of unbroken white on the trailing edge of the wing as well as larger white "windows" at the wing-tips. These translate into large white spots when the bird is at rest.
Great Black-backed Gull, Mainland Shetland, Scotland, May 2004 - click for larger image They are usually solitary or in small groups. As well as scavenging, they steal food from other birds and often kill smaller birds such as Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus and Puffin Fratercula arctica by stabbing them with their massive bills and shaking them. This bird had been feeding off a dead sheep.
Great Black-backed Gull, St Kilda, Scotland, August 2003 - click for larger image There are illustrations in HBW, Volume 3, Pages 595 and 600.
Great Black-backed Gull, St Kilda, Scotland, August 2003 - click for larger image This photo gives an idea of relative size with a Great Black-backed Gull along with 2 Herring Gull, a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Great Skua.
Great Black-backed Gull, Mainland Shetland, Scotland, May 2004 - click for larger image Great Black-backed Gulls take 4 years to reach adult plumage. This photo is of a juvenile bird. Note the massive bill and pinkish legs.
Great Black-backed Gull, North Rona, Scotland, May 2005 - click for larger image
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