Common Gull

Larus canus (Linnaeus, 1758) CM COMGU 5900
Family: Charadriiformes > Laridae

The Common Gull is a medium-sized gull, with a dark grey back and upperwings and yellowish-green bill and legs.

This species breeds in the north and west of both Britain and Ireland with a preference for upland areas. The highest densities are found in the eastern half of Scotland, whereas in Ireland it is predominantly a coastal bird.

Our breeding population is swelled in winter by the autumn arrival of a large influx from the Continent. Individuals become very widely distributed across the country – though avoiding the uplands – and are most abundant down the eastern half of Britain at this time.


Common Gull identification is sometimes difficult. The following article may help when identifying Common Gull.

related video

Identifying Common & Herring Gull

Herring Gull. Photograph by Edmund Fellowes

Love them or hate them, you can't (or shouldn't) ignore gulls. Build up your gull ID skills by learning to recognise two ideal reference species from this versatile and varied family: Common Gull and Herring Gull.


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Common Gull, provided by xeno-canto contributors.

Flight call

Alarm call


Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses

Our interactive online courses are a great way to develop your bird identification skills, whether you're new to the hobby or a competent birder looking to hone your abilities.

Browse training courses

Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



The coastal-nesting population increased by 70% between the 1969–70 Census and Seabird 2000 (1998–2002). However, more than half of the population counted by Seabird 2000 were breeding inland. The inland breeding colonies have not been counted consistently and hence the overall trend for this species is highly uncertain. The counts made since Seabird 2000 suggest that substantial declines may have occurred at both coastal and inland colonies, although coverage is incomplete and the extent of the decline will not be known until the results of the recent Seabirds Count (2015–2021) are available (JNCC 2022).


Each autumn and winter a large influx of continental Common Gulls supplements local breeders, resulting in a very wide winter distribution in Britain, with birds being absent only from upland areas; in Ireland they are mostly coastal. Breeding Common Gulls are found mostly in the north and west of both Scotland and Ireland. However, in Scotland, the highest densities are found on the eastern half of the country from Angus to the Moray Firth, Caithness and the Northern Isles as well as in many Highland straths and glens.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


The breeding change map highlights recent losses in many parts of Scotland and western Ireland.

Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK


Common Gulls are recorded throughout the year.

Weekly occurence of Common Gull from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.

An overview of year-round movements for the whole of Europe can be seen on the EuroBirdPortal viewer.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Common Gull ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


Lifecycle and body size information about Common Gull, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Faoileag-bheag-an-sgadain
Welsh: Gwylan Gweunydd
Catalan: gavina cendrosa
Czech: racek bourní
Danish: Stormmåge
Dutch: Stormmeeuw
Estonian: kalakajakas
Finnish: kalalokki
French: Goéland cendré
German: Sturmmöwe
Hungarian: viharsirály
Icelandic: Stormmáfur
Irish: Faoileán Bán
Italian: Gavina
Latvian: (kajaks), kaija
Lithuanian: paprastasis kiras
Norwegian: Fiskemåke
Polish: mewa siwa
Portuguese: famego
Slovak: cajka sivá
Slovenian: sivi galeb
Spanish: Gaviota cana
Swedish: fiskmås
Folkname: Cob


Interpretation and scientific publications about Common Gull from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

The causes of change in the Common Gull population are not known. Some studies have shown that American Mink Neovison vison can have a substantial negative effect at a local level and can cause colony abandonment (Craik 1997), but it is unclear whether predation from Mink and other predators may have driven wider population declines.

Links to more information from

Would you like to search for another species?

Help us collect data and improve this page for Common Gull

Help monitor the UK’s threatened gull species by taking part in the Winter Gull Survey.

Join Winter Gull Survey today