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Iceland Gull Larus glaucoides


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Iceland Gull
credit:  Seabamirum /CCSA

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

Description ADULT SUMMER Has a pale gray back and upper wings with a white trailing edge and pale gray subterminal marks on outer four or five otherwise white primaries. Plumage is otherwise white. Bill is yellowish green with an orange spot; pale yellowish to brown eye has a purplish red eyering. Adult ssp. glaucoides (breeds on Greenland) is similar but primaries are pure white. ADULT WINTER Similar, but has brown streaking on head and neck. JUVENILE AND 1ST-WINTER Pale gray-buff with white primaries. Bill is dark with hint of pink at base. Adult plumage is acquired over next 3 years through successive molts. Second-winter bird looks very pale overall, with faint gray-buff marbling; bill is pale grayish pink with a narrow dark tip or submarginal band. Third-winter is similar to winter adult, but with buff feathers on tail and upper wings.

Dimensions Length: 23" (58 cm)

Habitat Nests on cliffs in Canadian high Arctic and winters mainly on coasts of northern Canadian seaboard; occasionally pushed further south by harsh weather.

Observation Tips In winter, often associates with other gull species.

Range Eastern Canada, New England, Florida, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, Alaska, Great Lakes, Western Canada, Plains

Voice Utters a distinctive kyaoo and anxious ga-ka-ka, similar to Herring Gull but higher pitched.

Similar Species Thayer's Gull L. thayeri (L 22-24 in) is western counterpart of Iceland; sometimes turns up on Great Lakes and Atlantic seaboard in winter. Adult is similar to adult Iceland but has black wingtips with white "windows." Immatures are similar to their Iceland counterparts, but darker and browner.

Discussion Attractive, pale gull. Recalls Glaucous Gull in all plumages but note Iceland's smaller size, less bulky body, and longer-winged appearance. Rather rounded head and relatively small bill lend an almost pigeon-like quality to the head. Relatively short legs are pink. Represented in North America mainly by ssp. kumleini (known as "Kumlein's Gull") and to which main description refers. Sexes are similar.