Larus heermanni 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Charadriiformes Laridae

Scientific Name: Larus heermanni Cassin, 1852
Common Name(s):
English Heermann's Gull
Taxonomic Source(s): del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Non-passerines. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2017
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Keitt, B., Tershy, B. & Velarde, E.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Benstead, P., Butchart, S., Gilroy, J., Moreno, R., Sharpe, C.J.
This species is considered Near Threatened as it has a highly restricted breeding range, with 90% of the world population breeding on a single small island. Nesting populations fluctuate widely in response to climatic events, although these fluctuations are less than one order of magnitude. It is likely to be at high risk from catastrophic events or local anthropogenic changes, and should be carefully monitored.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

Larus heermanni has a population of approximately 283,000 to 300,000 breeding adults (Kushlan et al. 2002), 92% of which nest on Isla Rasa, Mexico (Burger and Gochfeld 1996). There are 150 pairs on George Island, 1,500 on Cholluda (Burger and Gochfeld 1996), 4,000 on Cardonosa and 200 breeding individuals on San Il de Fonso (Velarde 1999), with breeding south to Nayarit and islas San Benito and San Roque, and sporadically north to California, USA (Everett and Anderson 1991, Burger and Gochfeld 1996). Post-breeding dispersal occurs commonly to central California, USA, and in smaller numbers north to British Columbia, Canada, and south to Guatemala (Burger and Gochfeld 1996). Numbers on Isla Rasa are similar to estimates in the late 1960s, but there have been significant fluctuations with a low of 55,000 pairs in 1975 (Burger and Gochfeld 1996). 

Countries occurrence:
Canada; Mexico; United States
Costa Rica; Guatemala
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:43Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:1100000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:5Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):50
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Kushlan et al. (2002)

Trend Justification:  The overall population trend is fluctuating (Wetlands International 2006). This species has undergone a large and statistically significant increase over the last 40 years in North America (361% increase over 40 years, equating to a 46.6% increase per decade; data from Breeding Bird Survey and/or Christmas Bird Count: Butcher and Niven 2007). Note, however, that these surveys cover less than 50% of the species' range in North America. However, in the last eight years, almost total breeding failure has occurred in five nesting seasons. This is mainly due to environmental anomalies, that result in lack of food availability and, secondarily to overfishing of small pelagic fish (mainly Pacific sardine) their main food sources. One analysis of the trend of the population of this species is in process, to be able to predict the rate of population fluctuation over several years.

Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:300000 Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:This coastal species breeds very synchronously and often at high densities (up to 110 nests/100m2) on remote rocky coasts and islets (Velarde 1992, 1999). It feeds largely within inshore waters and in the littoral zone, but also in oceanic waters surrounding the breeding islands. 

Systems:Terrestrial; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:No
Generation Length (years):11.5
Movement patterns:Full Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

Population fluctuations are probably caused by the effects of El Niño Southern Oscillation (compounded by over-fishing) on prey abundance and consequently breeding success, and even adult survival (Velarde et al. 1994, E. Velarde in litt. 1998, Velarde 1999). Until early this century fluctuations have been considerably less than one order of magnitude and therefore the species is not even close to qualifying as threatened for this reason. The occupied breeding range is very small, but Isla Rasa was declared a sanctuary in 1964 (Anderson et al. 1976), and has been well-managed during the breeding season by resident biologists, who discourage egg-collecting and disturbance (E. Velarde in litt. 1998, B. Tershy and B. Keitt in litt. 1999). However, in the last decade increased frequency of warm oceanographic anomalies plus overfishing of the main forage fish that the species feeds on has dramatically reduced the breeding success and it is not yet clear how this will affect the population survival. Analysis are underway to produce predictive models that will help determine future status for the species.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation and Research Actions UnderwayNo specific actions are known.
Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Continue to take active measures to protect breeding populations on islands, particularly Isla Rasa. Monitor population trends at breeding sites, particularly in response to climatic change or fluctuation.

Amended [top]

Amended reason: Changed 'Very restricted in area of occupancy (AOO) and/or # of locations..' from Yes to No. Changed 'Continuing decline in area/extent/quality of habitat' from Yes to No.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2017. Larus heermanni (amended version of 2017 assessment). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2017: e.T22694296A117370235. . Downloaded on 20 September 2018.
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