Skip Navigation

Species Search:
FieldGuidesthreatened and/or endangered search resultsthreatened and/or endangered

Mew Gull Larus canus


enlarge +

Common Gull, also called Mew Gull
credit: Donna A. Dewhurst

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

All Images


Get Our Newsletters


Advanced Search

Family: Laridae, Gulls and Terns view all from this family

Description ADULT SUMMER Has blue-gray back and upper wings except for white trailing edge and black wingtips with white "windows" (largest on outer two primaries). Plumage is otherwise white, including tail. Bill and legs are yellow. ADULT WINTER Similar, but head and neck are streaked and mottled brown, bill is dull and dark-tipped, and leg color is duller. JUVENILE Has grayish back and upper wing with darker feather centers creating scaly appearance; plumage is otherwise white, streaked with brown; note the mainly dark tail. Legs are pink and bill is pinkish and darktipped. Acquires first-winter plumage in fall: similar, but back is gray and note mainly dark tail. Secondwinter is similar to winter adult, but retains faint dark band on tail.

Dimensions Length: 16-18 in (41-46 cm)

Habitat Widespread and locally common tundra breeding species, usually nesting colonially in the vicinity of lakes and marshes. Outside breeding season, almost exclusively coastal, favoring estuaries, river mouths, and coastal pools.

Observation Tips Easy to see on coasts in winter and separation from Ring-billed is straightforward: study size overall, bill size and markings, and eye color.

Range Southwest, Northwest, California, Alaska, Western Canada

Voice Utters a mewing, highpitched kyaa call.

Discussion Relatively small gull with a rather dainty bill, dark eye, and rounded head that has a "gentle" expression, akin to that of Black-legged Kittiwake, but note that species' short black legs and almost entirely black wingtips with only tiny white markings. Told from Ring-billed by smaller size, smaller bill (lacking a dark subterminal band), and dark eyes (pale iris in all but juvenile Ring-billed). Forms flocks outside the breeding season. Takes 2 years to reach adult plumage. Sexes are similar.