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 form kumlieni currently uncertain: sometimes considered a separate species, as birds with grey wingtips occur alongside those with white wingtips in Nearctic; on the other hand, sometimes regarded as a glaucoides × L. thayeri hybrid. E–W cline apparent, from pale glaucoides to slightly darker kumlieni to darker L. thayeri. Increasing tendency to lump L. thayeri with L. glaucoides refuted, however, as such treatment would make the species undiagnosable; yet kumlieni hybridizes with L. thayeri, and may be closer to latter than to L. g. glaucoides. Two subspecies provisionally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. g. kumlieni Brewster, 1883 – Kumlien's Gull – discontinuous colonies in Arctic Archipelago of NE Canada; winters from SE Canada (Labrador) S to E Great Lakes and Virginia (E USA).
  • L. g. glaucoides B. Meyer, 1822 – Iceland Gull – SW & E Greenland; winters S to NW Europe.
  • Descriptive notes

    55–64 cm; 557–863 g; wingspan 125–130 cm. Four-year gull. The breeding adult is a medium-large, long-winged gull, all white but for a pale grey... 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-June in Greenland. Solitary or in small colonies. On cliff ledge, occasionally on ground. Prefers steep cliffs over 100... read more


    Northernmost populations are migratory but populations of S Greenland resident. Post-breeding birds... read more

    Status and conservation

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

    Recommended citation

    Burger, J., Gochfeld, M. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2018). 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 19 October 2018).