Larus argentatus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Charadriiformes Laridae

Scientific Name: Larus argentatus Pontoppidan, 1763
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English European Herring 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.
Taxonomic Notes: Larus argentatus and L. smithsonianus (the latter including vegae and mongolicus) (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) were previously lumped as L. argentatus following Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Contributor(s): Morkunas, J., Lehtiniemi, T., Steiof, K., Baccetti, N., Yésou, P., Petkov, N., Bourne, W., Virkkala, R., Raudonikis, L. & Mischenko, A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J., Hatchett, J., Malpas, L., Symes, A., Taylor, J. & Ashpole, J
This species is classified as Least Concern. It has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is currently thought to be part of a longer-term fluctuation following previous increases. Should new evidence suggest that it is continuing to decline the species would warrant uplisting to Near Threatened.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:

Countries occurrence:
Albania; Austria; Belarus; Belgium; Bulgaria; China; Croatia; Czech Republic; Denmark; Estonia; Faroe Islands; Finland; France; Germany; Gibraltar; Greece; Greenland; Hungary; Iceland; Ireland; Italy; Latvia; Lithuania; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Netherlands; Norway; Poland; Portugal; Russian Federation (European Russia); Slovakia; Spain; Svalbard and Jan Mayen; Sweden; Switzerland; Ukraine; United Kingdom
Cyprus; Egypt; Israel; Kazakhstan; Luxembourg; Malta; Moldova; Montenegro; Morocco; Romania; Serbia
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:7180000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):2000
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The population is estimated to number 1,370,000-1,620,000 mature individuals which equates to 2,060,000-2,430,000 individuals (BirdLife International 2015).

Trend Justification:  L. a. argentatus was listed as stable from 1990-2000, while L. a. argenteus declined during the same period (Wetlands International 2014). Recently published data estimates the population to be decreasing at a rate approaching 30% in 39 years (three generations) (BirdLife International 2015). However it is thought that these recent declines are most likely to form part of a longer-term fluctuation following previous increases. Recent declines may in part be due to better waste management (N. Baccetti, T. Lehtiniemi, H. Meltofte, L. Raudonikis, K. Steiof and R. Virkkala in litt. 2015). The population should be closely monitored to establish whether it shows any sign of stabilising.
Current Population Trend:Decreasing
Additional data:
Number of mature individuals:1370000-1620000Continuing 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:The species inhabits coastal and near-coastal areas (del Hoyo et al. 1996) but may also forage inland on large lakes and reservoirs, fields and refuse dumps (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It has no specific breeding habitat (del Hoyo et al. 1996) but may show a preference for rocky shores with cliffs, outlying stacks or islets (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998), otherwise nesting on rocky and grassy islands, sandy beaches (del Hoyo et al.1996), dunes (Richards 1990), gravel bars, saltmarshes, rocky outcrops, buildings, claypits (del Hoyo et al. 1996), tundra with reeds or hummocks (Flint et al. 1984), swampy lowlands near lakes and on river islands (Flint et al.1984). When inland on migration the species also shows a preference for large river valleys (Flint et al. 1984). Although Herring Gulls exploit refuse tips and farmland extensively all year round, their breeding distribution is extremely coastal compared to other Larus gulls (other than L. marinus) (Gibbons et al. 1993).

The species has a highly opportunistic diet and will exploit almost any superabundant source of food (del Hoyo et al.1996). It takes fish, earthworms, crabs and other marine invertebrates (e.g. molluscs, starfish or marine worms), adult birds, bird eggs and young, rodents, insects (e.g. ants), berries and tubers (e.g. turnips) (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It also scavenges at refuse dumps, fishing wharves and sewage outfall zones and frequently follows fishing boats (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Huppop and Wurm 2000). The species shows increasing foraging distances later in the breeding period (Belant et al. 1993). The feeding range has been variously reported as 35 km (for breeding herring gulls in a Dutch colony) (Spaans 1971), 41 km (in Westphalia, Germany, outside the breeding season) (Sell and Vogt 1986), 50 km (for breeding birds in Morocco) (Witt et al. 1981) and 70 to 100 km (for herring gulls breeding in Denmark) (Klein 1994). Several other studies have reported shorter foraging distances (Andersson 1970, Verbeek 1977, Witt et al. 1981, Sibley and McCleery 1983, Cramp and Simmons 1983, Nogales et al. 1995, Pons and Migot 1995, BirdLife International 2000). Refuse tips are frequently exploited by foraging individuals (Sibley and McCleery 1983, Nogales et al. 1995, Pons and Migot 1995) and so the feeding distribution of some colonies will be determined by location of refuse dumps (BirdLife International 2000). On the basis of a simple density model of birds at sea, it has been estimated that 95% of herring gulls breeding on Terschelling in the Dutch Wadden Sea foraged within 54 km of the colony (BirdLife International 2000).

Northern breeding populations of this species are migratory (del Hoyo et al. 1996) although populations in the south are nomadic or completely non-migratory (Flint et al. 1984). Outside of the breeding season the species is highly gregarious and gathers in large flocks in favoured sites (Richards 1990, Snow and Perrins 1998). Individuals show foraging site fidelity (Shamoun-Baranes and van Loon 2006)

Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):13
Movement patterns:Full Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species is threatened by coastal oil pollution (Gorski et al. 1977) and is susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the virus (Melville and Shortridge 2006). It is also susceptible to colliding with offshore wind farms (Bradbury et al. 2014). It is vulnerable to being caught as bycatch in fisheries, including longlines, trawls and gillnets (Anderson et al. 2011, Zydelis et al. 2013).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
The species is covered by the African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement. In the EU it is listed under Annex II of the Birds Directive.

Conservation Actions Proposed
On-board monitoring programmes for seabird bycatch in fishing vessels, and implementation of mitigation measures where appropriate. Increased understanding of movements to assist placement of offshore wind farms.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2016. Larus argentatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T62030608A89504806. . Downloaded on 20 September 2018.
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