Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Least Concern

Mew Gull (Larus canus)


French: Goéland cendré German: Sturmmöwe Spanish: Gaviota cana
Other common names: Common Gull

Larus canus


, 1758,



Sometimes considered closely related to L. delawarensis, but morphometric analysis links it instead with L. melanocephalus. L. glaucus is a synonym. Possible hybrids with L. delawarensis, with L. ridibundus and with L. melanocephalus recorded. Form camtschatchensis sometimes treated as a separate species; interbreeds with race heinei in Siberia; previously listed as kamtschatschensis, but this dates from two years later, and in any case is a nomen nudum#R. Nominate canus and heinei may together represent a separate species from North American brachyrhynchus, although camtschatchensis seems to be intermediate between the two groups. Race brachyrhynchus recently treated as separate species#R, but the characters indicated are all minor and consistent with subspecies status. Taxonomic study needed. Proposed race stegmanni is synonymized with heinei. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. c. canus Linnaeus, 1758 – Mew Gull – Iceland and British Is E to White Sea; winters from Europe to N Africa and Persian Gulf.
  • L. c. heinei Homeyer, 1853 – Russia from Kanin Peninsula and Moscow area E to NC Siberia (R Lena); winters in SE Europe and at Black and Caspian Seas, and also in China and Japan#R.
  • L. c. camtschatchensis Bruch, 1855 – Kamchatka Gull – NE Siberia; winters in Japan and E China.
  • L. c. brachyrhynchus Richardson, 1831 – Short-billed Gull – N Alaska and N Mackenzie S to S British Columbia and N Saskatchewan; winters S to California.
  • Descriptive notes

    40–46 cm; nominate 290–552 g, camtschatschensis 394–586 g; wingspan nominate 110–125 cm, brachyrhynchus 96–102 cm. Three-year... read more


    Vocal mainly in breeding season, producing a mournful and high-pitched, prolonged, mewing “glieoo”... read more


    Coasts, tidal estuaries, agricultural land, reservoirs; breeds on coastal cliffs and islands, in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Earthworms, insects, aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, small fish; grain (in spring); occasionally kills birds and small mammals. In... read more


    Lays usually in May. Typically breeds in small colonies; in Sweden mostly 2–10 pairs; in Britain largest 320 pairs; often solitary.... read more


    Largely migratory. Race canus is least migratory, many moving relatively short... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Global population estimated at 2·5–3·7 million individuals; of these race canus is the most abundant,... read more

    Recommended citation

    Burger, J., Gochfeld, M., Kirwan, G.M., Christie, D.A. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2019). Mew Gull (Larus canus). 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).