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Great Black-backed Gull

Larus marinus

Length: 30 inches Wingspan: 65 inches Seasonality: Rare Visitor
ID Keys: Large size (largest gull in North America), very dark upper body plumage

Great Black-backed Gull - Larus marinusThe Great Black-backed Gull is the largest gull in the world.  It is primarily found in the North Atlantic, along the northeastern and Canadian coastlines in North America. it is rarely found inland except along the Great Lakes.  It's range has been expanding in recent decades, as it has been appearing inland more often (still nearly always near the Great Lakes), and further south along the Atlantic coast.  The species was unknown in South Dakota until a single specimen was documented along the Missouri River near Pierre in 2006.

Habitat: The vast majority of Great Black-backed Gulls are found in coastal waters of the North Atlantic.  Small numbers are found around the Great Lakes.  While primarily a coastal bird, some will spend much of the winter far offshore over the continental shelf.

Diet: Omnivorous.  Food items may include fish, mollusks, crustaceans, large insects, carrion, eggs, birds, rodents, and occasionally vegetable matter such as fruits and berries.  Its large size allow it to feed on birds and rodents that are too large for most gulls.

Behavior: Its omnivorous nature make it an opportunistic feeder.  Great Black-backed Gulls will forage while on foot, while swimming, or in flight.  They have adapted well to a human presence, and can often be found scavenging around garbage dumps, docks, and sea-going vessels.

Nesting: Non-breeder in South Dakota.

Song: Deep-throated, hoarse, and slow short phrases.

Migration: Great Black-backed Gulls are permanent residents in much of their range, but many move southward along the Atlantic coastline in winter, with the species much more common along the Southeastern U.S. coast in winter than in summer.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Great Black-backed Gull sightings

Similar Species: Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull.  See Identification Tips page for "typical gulls" for information on distinguishing between similar species.

Status: Populations have been expanding in both range and number in the last few decades.

Further Information: 1) Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Great Black-backed Gull

2) Cornell Lab of Ornithology - Great Black-backed Gull

3) eNature.com: Great Black-backed Gull

Photo Information: April 13th, 2012 - Sachuest National Wildlife Refuge, Rhode Island - Terry Sohl

 

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Greater Black-backed Gull - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Extremely rare visitor.  Unknown in the state until a single specimen was documented along the Missouri River near Pierre in 2006. Rare visitor along the Missouri since 2006.

Additional Great Black-backed Gull Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Great Black-backed Gull - Larus marinusGreat Black-backed Gull - Larus marinusGreat Black-backed Gull - Larus marinusGreat Black-backed Gull - Larus marinusGreat Black-backed Gull - Larus marinusGreat Black-backed Gull - Larus marinusGreat Black-backed Gull - Larus marinus