Iceland Gull

Larus glaucoides (B Meyer, 1822) IG ICEGU 5980
Family: Charadriiformes > Laridae

Iceland Gull, Scott Mayson

Iceland Gull is a gentle-looking bird with a neat round head and large eyes that add to this effect.

Iceland Gulls breed along rocky coasts, from Greenland west to north-east Canada. After the breeding season young birds disperse from their breeding grounds with many heading south and west, arriving in Iceland during September. During the winter months a few birds will head further south and those reaching Britain & Ireland arrive early in the winter.

Iceland Gull is a scarce winter visitor to Britain & Ireland. In some years fewer than one hundred birds occur; in other years several hundred are reported.

Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Iceland Gull

  • Breeding
  • Winter


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

related video

Identifying Iceland Gull and Glaucous Gull

 The latest identification video tackles the difficult pair of gulls, Iceland and Glaucous. March is one of the best months of the year to catch up with wandering gulls as they make their way back to their summer haunts.

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.



Iceland Gulls are scarce but regular passage migrants and winter visitors They arrive from autumn into northern and western Britain & Ireland and then move south as the winter progresses. Although there are hot spots around fish quays, harbours and landfill sites, they can be found by carefully searching gull flocks at loafing and roost sites. They are scattered around the coast of Britain with concentrations evident in west Cornwall, northeast and northwest England, Caithness, the Northern Isles and the Outer Hebrides. There are records from many inland locations, particularly in central England where the gull roosts are well watched. In Ireland the distribution is predominantly coastal.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2



Iceland Gulls are usually winter visitors, most often recorded in late winter.

Weekly occurence of Iceland 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.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Iceland 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 Iceland Gull, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



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

Gaelic: Faoileag-liath
Welsh: Gwylan yr Arctig
Catalan: gavinot polar
Czech: racek polární
Danish: Hvidvinget Måge
Dutch: Kleine Burgemeester
Estonian: polaarkajakas
Finnish: grönlanninlokki
French: Goéland arctique
German: Polarmöwe
Hungarian: sarki sirály
Icelandic: Bjartmáfur
Irish: Faoileán Íoslannach
Italian: Gabbiano d'Islanda
Latvian: maza polarkaija
Lithuanian: mažasis poliarinis kiras
Norwegian: Grønlandsmåke
Polish: mewa polarna
Portuguese: gaivota-branca
Slovak: cajka bielokrídla
Slovenian: polarni galeb
Spanish: Gaviota groenlandesa
Swedish: vitvingad trut

Links to more information from

Would you like to search for another species?