Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Least Concern

Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides)


French: Goéland arctique German: Polarmöwe Spanish: Gaviota groenlandesa

Larus glaucoides

B. Meyer

, 1822,



Formerly listed as L. leucopterus. Closely related to L. argentatus, and in past sometimes treated as conspecific. Taxonomic position of birds formerly recognized as race “kumlieni” still problematic: has exceptionally been considered a separate species, as birds with grey wingtips occur alongside those with white wingtips in Nearctic; on the other hand, current tendency (followed here) is to treat it as a glaucoides × L. thayeri hybrid. E–W cline apparent, from pale glaucoides to slightly darker “kumlieni” to darker L. thayeri. Tendency to lump L. thayeri with L. glaucoides now accepted. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. g. thayeri#R W.S. Brooks, 1915 – Thayer’s Gull – N Canada from Banks I E to N Hudson Bay and N Baffin I (E to vicinity of Home Bay), N through Ellesmere I to W Greenland (near Thule). Winters on Pacific coast from SW Canada (British Columbia) to NW Mexico (Baja California); regular but uncommon in Great Lakes region.
  • L. g. glaucoides B. Meyer, 1822 – Iceland Gull – SW & E Greenland; winters S to NW Europe.
  • Descriptive notes

    55–64 cm; 557–863 g (nominate), 846–1152 g (thayeri); wingspan 125–145 cm (nominate), 125–147 cm (thayeri). Four-year gull.... read more


    Described as similar to herring gulls (L.argentatus/L.smithsonianus) but much... read more


    Rocky coasts and fjords of the low Arctic, breeding on steep cliffs, offshore stacks, sometimes... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly small fish, e.g. salmon (Salmo), sprat (Sprattus), herring (Clupea), as well as marine invertebrates;... read more


    Lays mid May to mid Jun in Greenland. Solitary or in small colonies. On cliff ledge, occasionally on ground. Prefers steep cliffs over 100... read more


    Northernmost populations migratory but populations of S Greenland resident. Post-breeders linger... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). The nominate race numbers 50,000–100,000 pairs, all of them in Greenland. Numbers of “kumlieni”... read more

    Recommended citation

    Burger, J., Gochfeld, M., Garcia, E.F.J. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 11 December 2019).