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Herring Gull


First Cycle
Second Cycle
Third Cycle


HERRING GULL(23-27";55-57") smithsonianus

BILL SHAPE: straight w/ little gon angle; about 4-5x eye diam; curve to culmen at tip is moderate
HEAD SHAPE: long, sloped forehead w/ moderately flat crown, peaking far behind eye; heavy brow and may have glowering countenance
WING EXTENSION: about bill length
BILL COLOR: black, usually w/ flesh base to lower mand; may be all flesh w/ black tip by late winter flesh w/ square-cut black tip or subterm band pale yellow w/ large black irreg. subterm band pale yelow w/ brighter tip; often w/ dark inner mark or subterm ring next to orange-red gon. spot
LEG COLOR: pale dirty pink pink pink light to medium pink
IRIS/ORB RING: dark most are pale yellow; some may be dark as adult cream to pale yellow (dark is very rare); orb ring usually yellow, but orange or red is possible
HEAD: usually lighter and offset from underparts by mid-winter; covered w/ fine diffuse g-b streaks; aurs may be solid; thick streaks on nape sides fairly white w/ light streaks over crown and aurs; thicker on nape white w/ thin streaks over crown and aurs; thicker around nape thick blotchy streaks all over head and neck, coming across breast; aur edge palest; lower nape darkest; dark diagonal smudge in front of eye; streaks on nape and neck sides obvious through Mar
UNDERPARTS: belly fairly solid med-dark g-b; undt covs barred breast lightly splotched; belly variable; undt covs white or w/ faded barring scattered smudging across breast from nape; otherwise white white, but w/ head streaking across upper breast
blackish; may have thin pale crescents in fresh plumage black black w/ a hint of A-spots black w/ A-spots large and slightly decreasing in size; A10 slightly smaller than eye; A7 larger than eye
(in flight):
usually most of P7-10 black (rarely up to P9 with pale inner webs), inner Ps pale w/ small terminal mark, forming obvious pale window outer Ps black, inner Ps nearly white from above and below; mirror on P10 possible large mirror on P10; may have small mirror on P9; black band on P5; mark on P4; thin white tongue on P5-7, sometimes to P8; gray area white from below
(in flight):
dark w/ pale fringe nearly black w/ pale fringe adult gray w/ thin white trailing edge, about 1/3 bill length
TERTIALS: dark g-b, nearly matching Ps, tiped w/ pale crescent (may be large and irreg in shape), sometimes edged with white notches solid black w/ extensive marbled tips or internal markings as adult adult gray w/ white crescent about 1/2 bill length
GREATER COVERTS: usually w/ large g-b spots, w/ small pale areas between them; on most birds the inner feathers and outer subterm areas more solid, forming a dark lower bar on standing bird (others are completely checkered) extensively marbled med g-b, appearing solid w/ fine spots as adult adult gray
LESSER & MED COVERTS: large g-b subterm anchor w/ pale fringe and interior spots, giving a checkered look med g-b w/ extensive internal pale markings, appearing marbled; usually w/ some adult gray ... adult gray
SCAPULARS: variable g-b subterm anchor w/ pale fringe and adult gray centers; juvs have dark holly leaf pattern with crisp white notches along edges adult gray w/ small white crescent ... adult gray w/ white crescent about 1/3 bill length
BACK: like scaps but w/ more white in the pattern, giving a paler look adult gray; may be mottled w/ g-b as adult adult gray is a cool, pale gray w/ bluish hue, like Ring-billed
RUMP: much whiter than back, but barred w/ dark white white white
TAIL: black w/ white barring at base of outer retrices and on outermost webs; pale fringe; rarely w/ extensive barring at bases of all retrices solid dark w/ pale or mottled bases to most retrices; pale fringe ... white

The was table created by Steve Hampton and is intended to futher our knowledge of gull identification. Please email me at if you have any suggestions for updating or improving this table. Thanks.