Mew Gull (Larus canus)

Mew Gull

[order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Laridae | [latin] Larus canus | [UK] Mew Gull | [FR] Goeland cendre | [DE] Sturmmowe | [ES] Gaviota cana | [NL] Stormmeeuw


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Larus canus NA, EU w Europe to Siberia and nw NA widespread
Larus canus brachyrhynchus n Alaska, w Canada w USA
Larus canus canus Iceland and the British Isles to White Sea Europe and n Africa to the Persian Gulf
Larus canus heinei w Russia to c Siberia c and s Europe, Middle east
Larus canus kamtschatschensis ne Siberia se Asia

Physical charateristics

The Mew Gull has typical gull-like plumage–slate-gray back and wings, a white head, tail, and body, and black wingtips with white spots. The beak and legs are yellow. In breeding plumage, the Mew Gull has a clean white head, a dark eye, and a solid yellow bill without markings. In non-breeding plumage, its head is smudged with brown, the red eye-ring is absent, and the bill is partially dark. Juveniles are varying degrees of mottled brown interspersed with white and gray.
Mew Gulls can be found with other gulls at abundant food sources, such as spawning areas and along tidal convergence zones. Like many gulls, the Mew Gull uses a variety of foraging techniques, obtaining food while walking, wading, swimming, or flying. It often feeds in fields and at sewage ponds. The Mew Gull sometimes carries a hard-shelled mollusk into the air and drops it on rocks or pavement to break it open.

Listen to the sound of Mew Gull

[audio: Gull.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 119 cm wingspan max.: 122 cm
size min.: 40 cm size max.: 46 cm
incubation min.: 22 days incubation max.: 28 days
fledging min.: 33 days fledging max.: 28 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 5  


North America, Eurasia : West Europe to Siberia and Northwest NA


In winter, the Mew Gull inhabits coastal waters, and is commonly found in estuaries, river mouths, and freshwater ponds close to the shore. Summer habitat is concentrated around northern lakes. This species is not common at garbage dumps in any season and is seldom found offshore.


Breeding in small colonies or isolated pairs, Mew Gulls nest on high ground near water, or on top of a stump, or in a dense spruce up to 20 feet off the ground. Mew Gulls in Europe have been known to nest on gravel rooftops. When the nest is on the ground, it is a shallow scrape lined with grass. Nests built in trees are usually shallow cups of twigs and grasses. Both sexes help build the nest and incubate the 3 eggs for about 4 weeks. The young from nests built on the ground may leave the nest after a few days, but stay close by. The young in nests built in trees stay in the nest for a longer period. Both parents help feed the young, which fledge at about 4 weeks of age.

Feeding habits

Mew Gulls are omnivores whose diet varies with the season. On their breeding grounds, Mew Gulls eat mostly insects, which they often catch in mid-air. In coastal areas during the non-breeding season, small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks make up the majority of the diet. Other marine creatures, earthworms, small rodents, young birds, eggs, carrion, refuse, grain, and berries round out the diet of this opportunistic species.


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 is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely 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.
Mew Gull status Least Concern


Mainly migratory. European breeding population winters on western seaboard (including Baltic) south to Brittany, with small numbers reaching Iberia and Mediterranean in cold winters especially. British and Irish birds seldom emigrate but make extensive internal dispersals mainly south to south-west in autumn, with Scottish birds reaching Irish Sea and Ireland more often than North Sea. Typically, European migration is through maritime countries; only small numbers penetrate far into central Europe, though increasingly in recent years and has begun breeding there.

Distribution map

Mew Gull distribution range map

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