Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides)

Iceland Gull

[order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Laridae | [latin] Larus glaucoides | [UK] Iceland Gull | [FR] Goeland arctique | [DE] Polarmowe | [ES] Gaviota groenlandesa | [NL] Kleine Burgemeester


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Larus glaucoides NA, EU n AO coast
Larus glaucoides glaucoides s and w Greenland, Novaya Zemlya to n Europe
Larus glaucoides kumlieni ne Canada se Canada, ne USA

Physical charateristics

Size range falls short of Glaucous Gull but overlaps with Herring Gull. Fairly large, long-winged, and rather slender gull, with plumage colours and pattern as Glaucous Gull but with structural differences distinct in (1) shorter, less heavy, and more pointed bill, combining with more domed crown and rounded nape to give gentle outline and expression to head and face, (2) more oval-shaped body, (3) longer and narrower wings, particularly obvious when folded and then extending well past tail, and (4) shorter legs. Eye appears darker and larger than in Glaucous Gull. Bill less than half length of head, lacking stoutness or marked hook but coloured as Glaucous Gull. Legs leaden-pink, colder in tone than Glaucous Gull. Juvenile and first winter have more uniform appearance than Glaucous Gull, due to finer and more even pattern of markings and less-bold contrasting bill colour.

Listen to the sound of Iceland Gull

[audio: Gull.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 123 cm wingspan max.: 139 cm
size min.: 52 cm size max.: 60 cm
incubation min.: 28 days incubation max.: 30 days
fledging min.: 40 days fledging max.: 30 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 3  


North America, Eurasia : North AO coast


Breeds on low- to high-arctic rocky coasts, mainly in fjords and sounds well in from open ocean; occasionally on low skerries, detached stacks or low cliffs, but normally only on steep high cliffs at c. 100-200 m. After breeding season disperses, but mostly remains in similar habitat throughout year though some become accustomed to foraging near man, even in harbours; rarely at coast in western Greenland in summer.


In western Greenland, eggs laid mid-May to mid-June. Nest site is generally a flat ledge on sea-cliff, or on rocks among thick vegetation on sloping scree. On Novaya Zemlya, one nest c. 2 m from cliff-top and 16-18 m above water. Nest is as of Glaucous Gull but smaller, lined with grass and moss. Clutch is 2-3 incubation lasts for 28-30 days. Fledging from 40 to 45 days.

Feeding habits

Mainly fish, but also carrion, offal, and eggs and young of other birds, especially Kittiwake. Takes food from surface and by plunge-diving in shallow inshore waters rather in manner of tern; in autumn feeds additionally on berries.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Iceland Gull status Least Concern


Migratory to dispersive in different regions. Movements of Novaya Zemlya population unknown. Nominate glaucoides (breeds Greenland) resident to dispersive (principally immatures) in western Greenland, moving north (some reaching high Arctic) and south along coast, irregularly to Canadian and north-east USA coasts and north-east Atlantic; in eastern Greenland migratory, probably wintering in northern Iceland and regular visitor to north-west Europe, some young birds remaining through summer. Race kumlieni (breeds Arctic Canada) winters on Atlantic coast of North America from Labrador to Long Island and occasionally further south, with small numbers to Great Lakes and Hudson Bay; strays to Iceland and Faeroes, more recently to Britain and Ireland. Race thayeri (breeds arctic Canada and north-west Greenland) winters on west coast of North America south to California, a few also mid-west and on Atlantic coast as far south as Florida and Texas. In western Greenland moves to coast from breeding fjords in August, dispersing widely September-November. Emigration from eastern Greenland continues into November; adults return to breeding areas late April and early May but immatures remain in flocks on coast during summer.

Distribution map

Iceland Gull distribution range map

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