Great Black-backed Gull

©Derek Moore

Great black-backed gull

Scientific name: Larus marinus
The largest of our gulls, the great black-backed gull is thick-set, with a powerful beak and a bullying nature - happy to steal food from other birds. Look out for it at the coast in summer, and inland in winter.

Species information


Length: 68-78cm
Wingspan: 1.5-1.6m
Weight: 1.7kg
Average lifespan: 14 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).

When to see

January to December


The great black-backed gull is mainly found around the coast during the breeding season, but can be seen inland during winter at landfill sites and reservoirs. A very large, powerful gull, it is obviously bigger than the similar herring gull. Like many gulls, it is omnivorous, feeding on shellfish, birds and carrion. It will also scavenge and pirate food, chasing smaller birds away from their own prey.

How to identify

Gulls can be very difficult to tell apart, especially immature birds. Adult great black-backed gulls are much larger than other gulls. They are dark grey-black above and white below, with a white head (streaky during the winter) and black wingtips with white spots. They have pink legs, whereas the similar lesser black-backed gull has yellow legs.


Widespread. Nests around the coast on clifftops, rooftops and islands.

Did you know?

The great black-backed gull is the largest gull in the world. Due to their size, they have relatively few predators, but may occasionally fall prey to white-tailed eagles, sharks and killer whales at sea.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a Living Seas vision, where coastal and marine wildlife thrives alongside the sustainable use of the ocean's resources. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust.