Larus fuscus graellsii

Status:  Uncommon regular spring and fall migrant and winter visitor statewide. Rare regular summer visitor Lake McConaughy, rare casual elsewhere.

DocumentationPhotograph: 28 Feb 1994 Lake McConaughy, Keith Co (Gubanyi 1996).

Taxonomy:  Taxonomy of this species and close congeners has been complex and controversial. We follow the recent work of Collinson et al (2008), who recognize five subspecies, three in Eurasia (fuscus, heuglini, and barabensis), and two that occur in both North America and Europe, graellsii and intermedius. Howell and Dunn (2007) cite studies that suggest that only three subspecies comprise Lesser Black-backed Gull, fuscus, intermedius, and graellsii.

Most North American reports are referable to graellsii (Howell and Dunn 2007); intermedius has occurred only rarely in northeast North America. However, Olsen and Larssen (2004) indicated that North American birds resemble both graellsii and Intermedius and also suggested that the two subspecies may in fact comprise a cline.

Nebraska reports are presumed graellsii, although dark-mantled individuals may be closer to intermedius.

Changes since 2000:  First recorded in Nebraska in 1992 (Morris 1992), Lesser Black-backed Gulls have been reported every year since, except for 1993. There are now numerous records, qualifying the species for regular status in Nebraska. Lesser Black-backed Gull was first recorded in North America in 1934 and has increased in numbers remarkably since the 1970s, a reflection of a similar increase in Europe (Olsen and Larsson 2004). Lesser Black-backed Gull was first noticed in Greenland in the 1980s, and breeding was confirmed in 1990; since then, two breeding populations have established in southwestern Greenland (Boertmann 2008).

Springwinter <<<>>> May 2, 3, 4

Later dates are included in Summer (below).  Most spring reports are of adults.

Of about 254 total records as of Dec 2020 (eBird.org), 125 were Feb-Apr, half of these in Mar.

  • High counts: 15 at Lake McConaughy 26 Apr 2021, 9 there 18 Mar 2020, and 5 there 4 Apr 2017.

  In 2014, 16 were reported statewide 9 Mar through 19 Apr, 19 during the spring migration in 2015, and 21 in 2020.

Summer: There are about 25 records in the period 20 May through 7 Sep, most of apparent non-breeding immatures and most at Lake McConaughy; best tally is five there 13-24 May 2016.

The only record away from Lake McConaughy is of a third cycle immature photographed at Merritt Reservoir SRA, Cherry Co 23 Jul-11 Aug 2014 (Silcock 2014a, 2014b).

Fall: Sep 16, 16, 17 <<<>>> winter

Earlier dates are included in Summer (above). The only Sep record away from Lake McConaughy is of one at Branched Oak Lake, Lancaster Co 5-27 2016.

Low numbers occur Sep-Nov; numbers increase rapidly Dec into spring.

The provenance of fall migrants in Nebraska is unknown. As of 2007, there were only two records of Lesser Black-backed Gull breeding in North America, in Maine and Alaska; in both cases the birds were paired with Herring Gulls (Ellis et al 2007).

  • High counts: 6 at Lake McConaughy 18 Nov 2020, 5 there 8 Oct 2019, and 4 there 24 Nov 2017.

Winter: There are numerous records Oct-Apr, all associated with reservoirs across the state.

Although most interior Lesser Black-backed Gulls winter on the Gulf Coast (National Geographic Field Guide, 7th Edition), a few occur northward; it is listed as a “rare winter visitant” in Kansas (Thompson et al 2011).

  • High counts: 29 at Lake McConaughy 9 Dec 2020, 9 there 5 Apr 2021, and 9 there 18 Mar 2020.


SRA: State Recreation Area


Photograph (top) of a Lesser Black-backed Gull at Branched Oak Lake, Lancaster Co 19 Mar 2015 by Phil Swanson.

Literature Cited

Boertmann, D. 2008. The Lesser Black-backed Gull, Larus fuscus, in Greenland. Arctic 61: 129-133.

Collinson, J.M., D.T. Parkin, A.G. Knox, G. Sangster, and L. Svensson. 2008. Species boundaries in the Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gull complex. British Birds 101: 340–363.

Ellis, J.C., M.C. Stoddard, and L.W. Clark. 2007. Breeding by a Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) on the Atlantic coast of North America. North American Birds 61: 546-548.

Gubanyi, J.G. 1996. 1994 (Sixth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 64: 38-42.

Howell, S.N.G., and J. Dunn. 2007. Gulls of the Americas. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, New York, USA.

Morris, R. 1992. Spring 1992 Occurrence Report. NBR 60: 79-149.

Olsen, K.M., and H. Larsson. 2004. Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Silcock, W.R. 2014a. Summer Field Report, June-July 2014. NBR 82: 98-121.

Silcock, W.R. 2014b. Fall Field Report, August-November 2014. NBR 82: 150-181.

Thompson, M.C., C.A. Ely, B. Gress, C. Otte, S.T. Patti, D. Seibel, and E.A. Young. 2011. Birds of Kansas.  University Press of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, USA.

Recommended Citation:

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2021. Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus graellsii). In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 2 Jun 2021