Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)

(last update: October 12, 2011)

Coordinators:
Jean-Michel Sauvage (France)
Morten Helberg (Norway)
Nils Helge Lorentzen (Norway)
Mars Muusse (Netherlands)

Great Black-backed Gull adult December

Source:

Population Status, Distribution, and Trends of Gulls and Kittiwakes Breeding in Eastern Canada, 1998–2007 -
Occasional Paper Number 120, Canadian Wildlife Service, December 2012 (PDF)

by: R. C. Cotter, J.-F. Rail, A. W. Boyne, G. J. Robertson, D. V. C. Weseloh, K. G. Chaulk.

Chapter 4.4 Great Black-backed Gull

It is the largest gull in North America. This predominantly marine gull is the least abundant of the four main larids, with an estimated population of 30,980 pairs (61,960 individuals) (Table 1). Reflecting its marine origins, 79% of all Great Black-backed Gulls were found in Atlantic Canada (24,410 pairs) and 13% along the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Québec (4123 pairs) (Table 1Figures 1011); only 8% (2447 pairs) of its population nested along fresh or brackish water, mostly along the St. Lawrence River and Estuary in Québec. Very few nest in the Great Lake system in Ontario; during a comprehensive gull census in 1999–2000 only 36 pairs were counted, and the majority of these were on the Lower Great Lakes system (especially Lake Ontario with 22 pairs). In 2004–2006, there was a die-off of Great Black-backed Gulls due to an outbreak of Type E botulism, and in 2007 only one pair was counted on Lake Ontario (Weseloh 2007a).

The coast and off-shore islands of Labrador, Newfoundland, and eastern Nova Scotia (i.e., East Coast) harbour over half of all Great Black-backed Gulls breeding pairs (57%, 17,653 of 30,980 pairs; Table 1) and colonies (64%, 486 of 763 colonies; Table 3). In each province, with the exception of Ontario, the Great Black-backed Gull has more colonies than any other gull species. Of the 763 colonies recorded during recent censuses, only 21 had 250 or more pairs (Tables 46–9) while 92 had 100 or more pairs (Figure 12). Nova Scotia has 13 of these large colonies, including the two largest--Boot Island in the Bay of Fundy with 753 pairs (censused in 2002) and Outer Island in Shelburne County with 628 pairs (in 2002) (Table 6). The third largest colony was found on Île du Chenal (Grande-Entrée lagoon) on Îles-de-la-Madeleine in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in Québec, with 549 pairs (in 2007) (Table 9), while the fourth largest colony was found on Prince Edward Island at Poverty Beach, with 435 pairs (in 2004) (Table 7). The average colony size was slightly larger for the Maritimes, 62 pairs (n=289 colonies), than for Québec, 40 pairs (n=164 colonies) (Table 3).


Figure 10: Distribution of Great Black-backed Gull breeding colonies (number of pairs) in eastern Canada (number of colonies in parentheses). This is a map of eastern Canada showing the location of each Great Black-backed Gull nesting colony. Each red dot represents one colony, and the size of the dot represents the number of breeding pairs. There are three dot sizes: from small to large they represent 1 to 9 pairs, 10 to 99 pairs, and 100 to 999 pairs. The number of colonies in each size class is presented in parenthesis to the right of the size class.


Figure 11: Proportion (%) of the total breeding population estimate of the Great Black-backed Gull in eastern Canada, by province (A) and waterbody (B). This is a graph for the Great Black-backed Gull with, in part A, a pie chart showing the proportion (%) of its total breeding population that occurs in each province in eastern Canada and, in part B, a pie chart showing the proportion (%) of its total breeding population that occurs in each main waterbody (Great Lakes, Gulf of St. Lawrence, St. Lawrence River and Estuary, Bay of Fundy, and East Coast) in eastern Canada.


Figure 12: Frequency of colony size classes (number of pairs) of the Great Black-backed Gull in eastern Canada, by geographic region (A) and waterbody (B). This is a graph for the Great Black-backed Gull with, in part A, a bar chart showing the number of colonies per colony size class in Atlantic Canada, Québec, and Ontario and, in part B, a bar chart showing the number of colonies per colony size class in each main waterbody (Great Lakes, Gulf of St. Lawrence, St. Lawrence River and Estuary, Bay of Fundy, and East Coast) in eastern Canada . There are three colony size classes: from small to large (on the graph, from left to right), 1 to 9 pairs, 10 to 99 pairs, and 100 to 999 pairs. The number of colonies in each size class is presented on top of each bar.

Table 1: Estimated number of pairs of Ring-billed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls, and Black-legged Kittiwakes nesting in eastern Canada

Table 1
Estimated number of pairs of Ring-billed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls, and Black-legged Kittiwakes nesting in eastern Canada

Province
Waterbody

Region

Census Year(s)

Great Black-backed Gull

Total

Reference(s)

Atlantic Canada

Newfoundland and Labrador

East Coast --
Labrador 1998–2003 363 15361 Robertson and Elliot 2002; Robertson et al.2002; CWSunpubl.(Robertson,Chaulk)
East Coast and Gulf of St. Lawrence --    Newfoundland 2000–20062 6246 103816 Boyne et al. 2011; Robertson et al.2001; CWSunpubl.(Robertson)

Total:

  6609 105352  

Nova Scotia

EastCoast   2002–2004 11044 18236 Boyne and Beukens 2004;CWS unpubl.(Boyne; Chardine, J., CWS)
Bay of Fundy   2002–2004 1868 2995 Boyne and Beukens 2004;CWS unpubl.(Chardine, J., CWS)
Gulf of St. Lawrence   2002–2004 567 773 Boyne and Beukens 2004;CWS unpubl.(Chardine, J., CWS)
 Total:   13479 22004  

Prince Edward Island

Gulf of St. Lawrence   2004 1110 3596 Boyne and McKnight 2005

New Brunswick

Bay of Fundy   1998–2004 2187 16628 Mawhinney et al.1999; Kehoe and Diamond 2001; Ronconi and Wong 2003; McAlpine et al. 2005; CWSunpubl.(Robertson)
Gulf of St. Lawrence   2005 1025 8171 Boyne et al. 2006; Davis et al. 2011

Total:

  3212 24799  

Atlantic Canada Total:

  24410 155751  

Québec

Gulf of St.Lawrence -- Iles-de-la-Madeleine 2007 779 8499 Rail 2009
  GaspéPeninsula 20023 1322 46940 Cotter and Rail 2007
  AnticostiIsland 2004 0 16662 CWS unpubl.(Banque Informatisée des Oiseaux Marins du Québec, BIOMQ);
  North Shore 1990–20054 2022 24644 Rail and Cotter 2007; Roberge 2004; Société Duvetnor 1999; Bédard and Nadeau 1995; CWSunpubl.(BIOMQ)

Sub-total:

  4123 96745  
St. Lawrence River and Estuary   1990–20075 2411 118298 Bédard and Nadeau 1995; CWS and Société Duvetnor 2001, 2006; Mousseau 2007; SPEE 2008; CWSunpubl.(Brousseau,BIOMQ)

Québec Total:

  6534 215043  

Ontario

Great Lakes -- Lake Superior 1999–2000 0 17752 Hebert et al. 2008; Morris et al. 2009;CWSunpubl.(Ontario database)
  Lake Huron 1999–2000 9 121779 CWS unpubl.(Ontario database)
  Lower GreatLakes 1999 27 279449 Morris et al. 2003; Weseloh et al.2003; CWSunpubl. (Ontario database)

Ontario Total:

  36 418980  

Grand Total

    30980 789774  

1 This total is a minimum because Labrador has been only partially surveyed for nesting gulls; furthermore, this total includes 771 pairs from mixed Herring Gull and Great-Black-backed Gull colonies for which species was not identified.
2 Includes a Black-legged Kittiwake colony (Cape St. Mary's; 10,000 pairs) that was last censused in 1979.
3 Includes a Ring-billed Gull colony (Pointe de Sandy Beach; 1172 pairs; BIOMQ) that was surveyed in 2004; in 2002 this colony was unoccupied.
4 All Migratory Bird Sanctuaries were surveyed in 2005; colony data from Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve and elsewhere date from 1990–1999.
5 Most colonies surveyed between 2001 and 2007, however a few were last surveyed in 1990 or 1995.

Table 3: Number and average size of Herring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull colonies in eastern Canada

     

Herring Gull

Great Black-backed Gull

       

Colony Size

 

Colony Size

Province

Waterbody

Region

No.
Colonies

Average

SD

Min

Max

No.
Colonies

Average

SD

Min

Max

Atlantic Canada

Newfoundland & Labrador

East Coast Labrador 16 14 31 1 127 96 4 8 1 63
  East Coast and Gulf of St. Lawrence Newfound-
land
269 na1       196 na      

Total:

  285         292        

Nova 
Sc
otia

Bay of Fundy   8 141 74 40 240 11 170 232 3 753
  East Coast   82 87 131 1 707 194 57 87 1 628
  Gulf of St. Lawrence   2 58 71 8 108 10 57 52 5 141

Total:

  92 91 127 1 707 215 63 101 1 753

Prince Edward Island

Gulf of St. Lawrence                      

Total:

  8 224 287 2 855 14 79 122 1 435

NewBrunswick

Bay of Fundy   44 323 937 1 5926 44 50 65 1 285
  Gulf of St. Lawrence   11 219 296 4 937 16 64 53 3 175

Total:

  55 303 847 1 5926 60 54 62 1 285

Maritime Provinces Total:

155 173 524 1 5926 289 62 95 1 753

Atlantic Canada Total:

  440         581        

Québec

Gulf of St. Lawrence Iles-de-la-Madeleine 14 39 59 2 196 15 52 143 1 558
    Gaspé Peninsula 28 183 227 1 902 23 57 83 1 289
    Anticosti Island 3 7 6 3 14 0        
    North Shore 43 301 1057 1 6900 67 30 57 1 329

Sub-total:

88 212 753 1 6900 105 39 80 1 558
  St. Lawrence River-Estuary   57 216 212 1 899 59 41 62 1 286

 Québec Total:

  145 213 600 1 6900 164 40 74 1 558

Ontario

Great Lakes Lake Superior 318 37 51 1 407 0        
    Lake Huron 413 54 217 1 3457 9 1 0 1 1
    Lower Great Lakes 61 74 164 1 1067 9 3 3 1 11

 Ontario Total:

  792 49 166 1 3457 18 2 2 1 11

Grand Total

  1377         763        

1 na=not available; for most colonies only an approximate size was recorded (i.e., small, medium, large, or very large; see Methods).

 

8902j43a.jpg (64885 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull J5RP (Larus marinus) 6cy: December 09 2011, Boulogne-sur-Mer, France (50.42 N - 01.34 E). Picture: J-M Sauvage.
8902j43a.jpg (64885 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull JHX9 (Larus marinus) 7cy: December 03 2012, Boulogne-sur-Mer, France (50.42 N - 01.34 E). Picture: J-M Sauvage.
gbbgGreat Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) JL03 2006, 2009 & 2013, Boulogne sur Mer, France (50.44 N - 01.35 E). Picture Jean-Michel Sauvage.
8902j43a.jpg (64885 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) 5cy JX76 December 15 2011, Scheveningen, the Netherlands.
8902j43a.jpg (64885 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) 6cy JZ61 December 01-02 2012, Calais, France. Picture: J-M Sauvage.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) J19X 6cy: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) JE001 5CY, December 15 2013, Houten, the Netherlands. Picture: Herman Bouman.
7095jp36.jpg (66909 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) 18cy NOS 370182 December 02 2012, Calais. Picture: J-M Sauvage.
7095jp36.jpg (66909 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) 18cy NOS 360824 December 03 2012, Boulogne-sur-Mer, France (50.42 N - 01.34 E). Picture: J-M Sauvage.
7680.jpg (49959 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) SVS 9159239 5-6cy, March 2012-December 2013, Boulogne-sur-Mer, France. Picture Jean-Michel Sauvage.
8902j43a.jpg (64885 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull SK3T (Larus marinus) adult: December 10-19 2012, Boulogne-sur-Mer, France (50.42 N - 01.34 E). Picture: J-M Sauvage.
7095jp36.jpg (66909 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) 1AP 5CY, December 08 2013, Howth, Dublin, Ireland. Picture: Graham Prole.
gbbg09704.jpg (81034 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) 2E2 adult, April 21 2012 - July 28 2013, Sandy Point Beach - Plum Island. Picture: Steve Arena, Jorge de Leon & Jeffrey Offermann.
8471j52c.jpg (85052 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) 7P1 adult, December 20 2011, Isles of Shoals. Picture: Lauren Kras.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands. P10 growing. PMS=49.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands. P10 growing. PMS=49.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands. P10 growing. PMS=49.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands. P9 growing, P10 old. PMS=41/42. Late moult. Suggestion of growing S2? Lots of brown old coverts in wing.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands. P10 growing. PMS=49.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands. P9-P10 growing. PMS=47.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands. P9-P10 growing. PMS=47.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands. P10 growing. PMS=48.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands. P10 growing. PMS=49.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands. P9-P10 growing. PMS=46.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands. P10 growing. PMS=48.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands. P9-P10 growing. PMS=47.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) adult: December 03 2007, Den Oever, The Netherlands. Picture: Fred Visscher.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands. P10 growing. PMS=49.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands. P10 growing. PMS=48.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands.
9149.jpg (76564 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) adult: December 18 2009, IJmuiden, the Netherlands.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2011, Scheveningen, The Netherlands.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2011, Scheveningen, The Netherlands.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2012, IJmuiden, The Netherlands.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) adult: December 15 2011, Scheveningen, The Netherlands.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) adult: December 19 2007, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Picture: Robert Heemskerk.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) adult: December 12 2010, IJmuiden, The Netherlands. Picture: Mark Broeckaert.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) adult: December 30 2010, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Picture: Ruud Altenburg.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) adult: December 31 2008, Brouwersdam, The Netherlands. Picture: Dirk Huitzing.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) adult: December 14 2008, Brouwersdam, The Netherlands. Picture: Ruurd Boonstra.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) adult: December 16 2005, Hoek van Holland, The Netherlands. Picture: Roy Beukers.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) adult: December 05 2008, Brouwersdam, The Netherlands. Picture: Jeroen Bes.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) adult: December 01 2008, Den Oever - Voorhaven, The Netherlands. Picture: Wiepko Lubbers.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) adult: December 03 2007, Den Oever - Voorhaven, The Netherlands. Picture: Wiepko Lubbers.
2121gbbgad.jpg (50050 bytes)Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) adult: December 19 2006, Den Oever - Voorhaven, The Netherlands. Picture: Wiepko Lubbers.