County Corner

Common Gull
Common Gull

Ironically, the common gull is not so common. Much more familiar is the very similar but larger and louder herring gull.

Of course, to Joe Public they are all just seagulls, a broad term used to cover all of our gull species.

Look a little closer however and you will see that seagull species are actually fairly easy to tell from one another.

Easiest of the lot is the black headed gull, at least in summer when it sports its handsome dark brown face mask.

Then there are the two black backed species, the greater and lesser black backed gulls.

Lesser black backs are common gulls, in fact they breed on rooftops in some of our coastal towns as those living below cannot fail to notice.

Similarly the pale blue backed herring gull, probably the most familiar of the lot with its loud laughing call, is our most familiar roof nester.

Gull identification places much emphasis on leg colour.

For instance, lesser black backed, yellow, herring gull pink and black headed gull red.

If you see a herring gull whose legs are not pink, you may have found a common gull.

Herring gulls also have a large yellow bill with an obvious red spot.

As you can see here, the common gull has a much more delicate bill and is in fact a generally more delicate and, dare I say, bonny bird.

This species, sometimes called the mew gull due to its long mewing call, resembles a smaller version of the herring gull and is much less likely to mug you for your fish and chips. In fact mew gulls are more likely to be seen following the plough or gleaning for worms in village parks.

So, to those of you who have been calling all gulls “seagulls”, here is your challenge for the week. Look a little closer and see if you can name one or two gull species.

If you do manage to spot a common gull, congratulate yourself, because by then you will have realised they are not so common at all.