Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Least Concern

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus)


French: Goéland brun German: Heringsmöwe Spanish: Gaviota sombría

Larus fuscus


, 1758,



Closely related to L. argentatus, and in past sometimes considered conspecific, but in most areas of sympatry the two are reproductively isolated; molecular evidence separates present species from L. argentatus and L. cachinnans. Very complex systematics involving several of the races. Some evidence that heuglini overlaps nominate fuscus in range, perhaps without interbreeding; may merit specific status as L. heuglini, which may even include form vegae (currently treated as a subspecies of L. smithsonianus). Form barabensis has been treated as a race variously of present species, of L. argentatus, of L. cachinnans and of L. heuglini (when last-mentioned treated as a separate species), or as a separate species, L. barabensis, or considered to be a hybrid form not worthy of recognition at all (despite distinctive characters). Described form antelius (from W Siberia) is regarded as a synonym of heuglini; proposed form taimyrensis (Yenisey and Taymyr Peninsula) often considered inseparable from heuglini and, pending further molecular study#R, this position taken here. (See also L. argentatus). Five subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. f. graellsii A. E. Brehm, 1857 – Lesser Black-backed Gull – Iceland, Faeroes, British Is, Netherlands, France and Iberia; winters from SW Europe to W Africa, and has increased dramatically on Atlantic coasts of America#R.
  • L. f. intermedius Schiøler, 1922 – Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, coastal Norway and SW Sweden, with isolated population in NE Spain (Ebro Delta); winters mostly in W Europe and W Africa.
  • L. f. fuscus Linnaeus, 1758 – Baltic Gull – Baltic Sea and Finland E to White Sea; winters mostly in Africa and SW Asia.
  • L. f. heuglini Bree, 1876 – Heuglin's Gull – N Siberia from S Kola Peninsula E to Taymyr Peninsula; winters from Middle East S to E Africa and E to India, E China and S Korea.
  • L. f. barabensis H. C. Johansen, 1960 – Steppe Gull – C Asian steppes; winters mostly in SW Asia.
  • Descriptive notes

    51–68 cm; 550–1200 g; wingspan 124–158 cm. Races graellsii, intermedius and barabensis are four-year gulls, but races fuscus... read more


    All calls resemble those of L. argentatus but they are deeper and more nasal in tone,... read more


    Frequents a wide diversity of coastal and inland waters, including the open sea. A study of... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet diverse and opportunistic. Frequent items include small fish, aquatic invertebrates, birds’ eggs and chicks, trawler discards,... read more


    Breeders arrive at their colonies from Mar onwards. Laying principally from May (late Apr) to mid Jun, according to location. Colonies... read more


    Most races migratory, wintering often far S of breeding range, but there has been an increasing... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Global population not completely known since there are a lack of data regarding races heuglini and barabensis.... read more

    Recommended citation

    Burger, J., Gochfeld, M., Kirwan, G.M., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (2019). Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus). 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 April 2019).