Quick Guide to Gulls: Great Black-backed Gull

Photo of Great Black-backed Gull

The Great Black-backed Gull (GBBG) is the largest gull worldwide and can be found with regularity in many parts of New England. While not as numerous inland as Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, they are the third most common gull who I encounter. Adult birds are quite distinctive, with black-backs, pinkish legs, and large yellow bills marked with a red spot. Lesser Black-backed Gulls (LBBG), while similar in many respects, are substantially smaller birds, with lighter-colored backs and yellow legs. In New England, LBBGs are much less common, turning up most frequently in coastal locations in winter.

Photo of Great Black-backed Gull

GBBGs take roughly four years to obtain adult plumage and in the process take on many different looks. Regardless of plumage variation, GBBGs stand out in a mixed flock of gulls, due to their impressively large size. The above photo shows an adult Great Black-backed Gull along with Herring and Ring-billed Gulls.

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