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Lesser black-backed Gull, Larus fuscus

Lesser black-backed Gull

A familiar and common inhabitant of the European coastline, the Lesser Black-backed Gull is becoming a regular visitor to the eastern United States.   Although still relatively uncommon in Tennessee, numbers are increasing throughout the region, and can be found on freshwater lakes and rivers.

Description:  The Lesser Black-backed Gull is overall sleek and slender with relatively long, narrow and pointed wings, yellow legs and feet and slender yellow bill with a red spot on the lower mandible .

Head and underparts are white, back is dark gray to black, wingtips are black with some white and rump and tail are white. The eye is a pale yellow with a red orbital ring.

Length: 21 inches

Wingspan: 54 inches

Weight: 1.8 lbs

Similar Species:

  • Greater Black-backed Gull - larger in size with a stouter bill and pink legs. Large white spot on the wing, darker back with little to no head streaking.
  • Herring Gull - larger, with pink legs, light gray mantle

Habitat: In Tennessee, Lesser Black-backed Gulls can occasionally be found on freshwater lakes and rivers.

Fish, marine invertebrates, birds, eggs, insects, seaweed, carrion and garbage.

Nesting and reproduction:
 There are no known records of this species nesting in Tennessee.

Status in Tennessee:
 The Lesser Black-backed Gull is an uncommon migrant from fall thru Spring, increasing in numbers throughout Tennessee and the Mississippi River area.

Fun Facts:

• Three subspecies of Lesser Black-backed gulls are currently recognized.

Obsolete English Names: none

Best places to see in Tennessee: Old Hickory DamParis Landing State ParkBig Sandy Unit of Tennessee NWR, Pickwick Dam

Lesser black-backed Gull Range Map


Sibley, D. A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. A. A. Knopf, New York, NY.

Alsop, F.J, 2001, Birds of North America, DK Publishing, New York, NY

Peterson, R.T., 2002, Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America, Houghton Mifflin, New York, New York

Howell, S and Dunn, J, 2007, Gulls of the Americas, Houghton, Mifflin, New York, 
New York