Mew gull

   ›      ›   Common (Mew) gull - Larus canus

The mew gull (Larus canus) belongs to the family of gulls, terns and skimmers, Laridae.

The mew gull species are distributed in Europe, Asia, North America and Africa. These gull species are also known as common gulls. These birds are polytypic species.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Common (Mew) Gull Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Common (Mew) Gull - Overview

  • Scientific name: Larus canus
  • Species author: Linnaeus, 1758
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Larus canus Linnaeus, 1758
  • Family: Laridae › Charadriiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Mew gull, Chinese: 海鸥, French: Goéland cendré, German: Sturmmöwe, Spanish: Gaviota cana, Russian: Сизая чайка, Japanese: カモメ, Malay: Burung Camar Balai
  • Other names: common gull, Short-billed Gull
  • Distribution: northeast Asia, central Asia, northwest Asia, Europe, north coastal Africa, northwest North America
  • Diet and feeding habits: insects, worms, molluscs, small crustaceans, small fish, seeds
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)

Appearance, physical description and identification

The mew gull (Larus canus) is a small gull, measuring 40 to 45 cm in length and weighing 290 to 550 grams. The wingspan is around 110 to 125 cm.

The overall plumage of the summer breeding mew gull is gray and white. The head, neck, throat, breast and the underparts are white. The wings and back are gray. The long pointed wings have black wingtips and large white "mirrors".

The bill is olive yellow, slender, hooked and short. In wintering adult mew gull there is a poorly defined blackish brown band near the tip of bill. The irises are dark and the eye ring is red. The legs are greenish yellow and the feet are webbed.

The juvenile mew gull has grayish brown head, back and breast. The underparts are brownish gray. The bill is black. In the first winter the head and belly become paler.

In the first summer mew gull, the back turns gray and the head becomes whitish. In the second winter bird, the back is gray and the head and neck are grayish brown.

The breeding mew gulls make a mewing call. Their call is a repeated "kieoo..kieoo' sound.
Indian birds - Picture of Mew gull - Larus canus
1.Birds of India - Image of Mew gull - Larus canus by Estormiz

Birds of India - Photo of Mew gull - Larus canus
2.Indian birds - Picture of Mew gull - Larus canus by Arnstein Rønning

Indian birds - Image of Mew gull - Larus canus
3.Birds of India - Photo of Mew gull - Larus canus by 4028mdk09

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The mew gull species are distributed in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

Vagrant birds have been observed in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Libya, Gambia, Mauritania, Senegal, Morocco, Greenland (Denmark), Liechtenstein, Malta and Hong Kong (China).

The mew gull nominate subspecies L. c. canus is distributed in Iceland and northwest coast of Europe. They winter in southern Europe, north Africa and Persian Gulf.

The mew gull subspecies L. c. heinei is distributed in Russia (Kanin Peninsula to northcentral Siberia). They winter in southeast Europe, Caspian Sea, Black Sea, eastern China and Japan.

The mew gull subspecies L. c. camtschatchensis is distributed in northeast Siberia and winters in eastern China and Japan. The subspecies L. c. brachyrhynchus is distributed in Alaska and Canada and winters in Californian coast.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of the mew gull in USA are Northern Montague Island, Prince William Sound and Susitna Flats. The IBA in UK are Bluemill, Correen Hills, Loch of Skene and Tips of Corsemaul and Tom Mor.

The IBA of mew gull in Canada are Barkley Sound, Sidney Channel, Baynes Sound, Shallow Bay, Big Slough and Swan Lake, Cowichan estuary, Porlier Pass and Nares Lake. The IBA in Ireland are Carrowmore Lake, Inishglora and Inishkeeragh and Inishkeeragh and Illancrone.

The IBA of mew gull in Iran are Lake Alagol, Lake Ulmagol and Lake Ajigol, Miankaleh Peninsula and Gorgan Bay and South Caspian shore and from Astara to Gomishan.

Some of the IBA of mew gull in Russia are Angara river source, Varegovskoye bog, Sitnikovski Reserve, Rybinsk reservoir, Lake Lacha, Kuloy river, Kargopol area, Dunilovskoye bog, Bylinskaya, Danilovskoe marshes and Perevolochny bay.

IBAs of these gulls also exist in Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Romania, Sweden and Turkey.

Ecosystem and habitat

These mew gull species do not normally occur in forests. These species normally occur in altitudes from 0 to 1400 meters.

The artificial ecosystems and habitats of these mew gull species include water storage areas, flooded agricultural lands, flooded pasturelands and harbors.

The natural ecosystems of these mew gull species include intertidal mudflats, temperate grasslands, rocky, pebble, sandy shorelines, intertidal pools, estuaries, shallow seas with macroalgal growth, swamps, marshes, coastal cliffs and islands.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of mew gull consists mainly of invertebrates. Terrestrial and aquatic insects, insect larvae, worms, crustaceans, earthworms, molluscs, fish and fish waste are their primary food. Occasionally they feed on small vertebrates.

These mew gull species forage in hundreds at garbage dumps and fishing harbors. They glean food from the surface of the ground as well as water surface. They scavenge and pirate food from other mew gulls as well as other bird species.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of the mew gull species is during May. They breed in small, loose colonies. These species are monogamous and defend their breeding territory aggressively.

The nesting sites of these gulls include dry open grounds close to freshwater streams with little or no vegetation, gravel banks, beaches and also industrial water bodies like gravel pits and sedimentation basins. Both the pairs build the nest.

The nest may be a cup-shaped structure placed in shallow depression scraped on the high ground, rocks, sand or floating marsh vegetation. These mew gull species have been observed to nest in nest-boxes and in trees. The nest is scantily lined with dry grasses.

The mew gull clutch contains typically three eggs. The eggs are brownish-olive buff color. The are mottled brown and black. Both parents incubate the eggs. The chick hatch out in 24-26 days. They fledge in 30-32 days, post hatching.

The breeding gulls respond to the intruder presence, including humans, by diving at the intruders, circling overhead and alarm calling. While the adults are defending the nests, the chicks leave the nest and enter the water for safety.

Migration and movement patterns

These mew gull species are partially migratory birds. The autumn migration to wintering grounds occurs from August to November. The spring migration to breeding grounds occurs in March and April.

The breeding mew gull populations occur in northern Europe, northern Asia (north Kazakhstan, Russia, northwest China, north Mongolia) and northwest North America (Alaska and northwest Canada).

The wintering populations of these gulls occur in the west coast of North America (up to California), Pacific coast of Asia from North Korea down to northern Vietnam, Atlantic coast of Europe, Mediterranean region and coasts of the Black Sea, Caspian Sea and Persian Gulf.

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the mew gull (Larus canus) is estimated to number 2,500,000 to 3,700,000 individual birds. The overall population trend of these species is unknown.

Throughout its range this gull species is reported to be rare to uncommon. The generation length is 9.8 years. Its distribution size is about 75,300,000

Habitat degradation and fragmentation, hunting, egg-collection, fishery activities and predation are the main threats that may endanger the survival of these gull species.

IUCN and CITES status

The mew gull (Larus canus) does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable, either under the range size criterion, or under the population trend criterion or under the population size criterion.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the species and has listed it as of "Least Concern". The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for mew gull (Larus canus).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Larus canus
Species:L. canus
Binomial name:Larus canus
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
The mew gull (Larus canus) is closely related to ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis) and Mediterranean gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus).

The four recognized subspecies of mew gull are: Larus canus canus Linnaeus, 1758, Larus canus heinei Homeyer, 1853, Larus canus camtschatchensis Bruch, 1855 and Larus canus brachyrhynchus Richardson, 1831.
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1.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Estormiz | License: Public domain
2.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: Arnstein Rønning | License: CC BY 3.0
3.Photo source: (cropped)
Photo author: 4028mdk09 | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
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