Deep Dive: Seagulls

by Chris Anderson on June 04, 2023
What’s the difference between gulls and seagulls?
It’s a trick question! There is no difference! 
Seagulls technically aren’t a species. They’re a name that we colloquially give to various species of gulls that we associate with living near the ocean. However, even that isn’t technically true, because not all gulls live by the ocean.1
Throughout the world, there are over 50 species of gull. They’re very smart and adaptable. They can be found in a variety of habitats, and they are not picky when it comes to finding prey.2 They’ll eat:2
  • Fish
  • Invertebrates
  • Insects
  • Worms 
  • Eggs
  • Carrion 
  • Vegetation 
  • Food left behind by humans 
Their intelligence is evident when they hunt because they’ll do things like follow plows that they know will bring up insects as they turn over the soil. They’ll also communicate with other gulls when they find food around.2
Gulls are diverse and can range from 11 inches tall to 30 inches tall depending on the species.3 It can be difficult to identify individuals because when you aren’t paying close attention to the subtle differences in their markings, they can all look the same. Plus, their coloring tends to change as they get older.4
Check out some of the differences between the Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, and the Common Gull. Looking at them now, you can see the differences, but also see how those differences can be missed:4
Herring Gull 
These birds are white and gray and have pink-colored legs. During the colder months, dark, streaky markings will form. 
Lesser Black-backed Gull 
These birds are white and have dark gray feathers on their backs and black feathers on the tips of their wings. Their bills and legs are yellow. 
Common Gull 
These birds, just like the ones above, are white and gray. They also have black tips on their wings. Their bills are yellow, and their legs are yellowish-green in color. Their heads develop gray streaks during wintertime.

Kind of amazing, right?
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