• Name: Lesser black backed gull | Larus fuscus
  • Size: 135-150cm wingspan
  • Life span: 15 years  
  • Diet: Lesser black backed gulls are omnivores and scavengers and will eat a wide range of food; including fish, insects, mollusc, crustaceans, eggs, small birds, seaweed, seeds etc
  • Reproduction: Lesser black backed gulls are monogamous, they often mate for life and rarely separate; females ordinarily lay 3 eggs.  Scilly has an internationally important breeding population with approximately 10% of the UK's breeding population being here.
  • When to see: Throughout the year
  • Where to see: Lesser black backed gulls can often be seen inland on the Mainland around landfill sites on farmland and wetlands; here in Scilly you will find them around the coast on rocky outcrops on both our inhabited and uninhabited Islands, i.e. Pelistry, St Mary's | Annet | Gugh in Scilly. 
  • Conservation status: ICUN Redlist | Least Concern (Global).  Birds of Conservation Concern 4 | Amber (UK)
  • Population Trend: Increasing (following declines in the 19th Century due to persecution; expansion has now halted and there is serious concern about declines in many parts of its range.)
  • Threats:  Human activity and persecution, Climate change and changes in weather patterns, pollution (both on land and at sea).
  • Fun Fact: At a breeding colony, immature, non-breeding adults, failed and off-duty breeders form "clubs" near the colony, where they spend time "loafing", resting, and preening.

Description:  The Lesser black backed gull is a medium sized gull with a slate/dark grey back and wings, white head and chest, yellow legs and a yellow bill with a red spot on the underside. 

This red spot is pecked by chicks to encourage parents to regurgitate food.

The world population of this species is found entirely in Europe, with 40% of this population being in the UK.

Lesser black backed gulls can be tricky to tell apart from their larger cousins, the Great black backed gull.  However, they are significantly smaller and their yellow legs (Great black backs have pink legs) are a give away.

Want to know more?  Check out our latest Seabird Monitoring & Research Technical Report for the most up to date information about how this much persecuted species is fairing in Scilly.


Do remember that we rely on donations to continue our work.  If you have searched, found and learned about Scilly's wildlife on our website, please Support Us and give what you can.  Thank you 💚

Support Us


With thanks to Barefoot Photographer for the Lesser black backed gull image