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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : American Herring Gull

Hebrides bird sightings - American Herring Gull

American Herring Gull

Larus smithsonianus

Photography © Martin Scott
Stornoway - Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
17th March, 2007


Bird length 53-65cm and wingspan 120 -150cm.

This is the Nearctic counterpart of Herring Gull


The American herring gull is apparently similar to the herring gull, but a little larger and heavier, with a stronger bill, smaller head, with a flatter forehead.

The American herring gull is slimmer than the glaucous gull with a rounder head, eyes that are more centrally placed, a more slender bill, and with a less clear *gonys-angle (*not in my dictionary - please can anyone explain this?) and a narrower tip.

The gull's head often peaks on the crown well behind eyes. When it has settled it shows 3 or 4 equally spaced primary tips beyond tail.

Distinguishing the American herring gull from the herring gull is described as straighforward in first years (!) but otherwise extremely difficult, and for older birds is often impossible.

Apparently sound recordings of the American herring gull played to herring gulls in Western Europe got no response. (So perhaps they are unlikely to cross-breed and make identification even more difficult...)


*"Gonys-angle: this is difficult without drawing a picture, it's the angular bit of the lower mandible near the tip of the bill you should be looking at. Less pronounced in the American Herring Gull than say a Glaucous Gull"

Carl Chapman

Many thanks to Debbie Bozkurt for finding the notes. Apparently there are 10 pages of them in her new gull book: Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America by Klaus Malling Olsen and Illustrated by Hans Larsson. Apparently it has over 600 pages and talks about 43 birds which is about 14 pages each!


Our photographs of the American herring gull :

American herring gull American herring gull
American herring gull American herring gull


Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

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