Larus fuscus graellsii

Status:  Uncommon regular spring and fall migrant statewide. Rare regular summer visitor statewide. Rare casual winter visitor statewide.

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).

SpringFeb 3,7,8 <<<>>> May 2, 4, 5

Later dates are of a first alternate at Lake McConaughy 16 May-21 Jun 2005 (Silcock 2005a, 2005b), an adult at Lake McConaughy 18 May 2015, two immatures at Branched Oak Lake, Lancaster Co 18 May 2017, and at least five, two adults and three immatures, at Lake McConaughy 13-24 May 2016. Most spring reports are of adults.

  • High counts6 at Lake McConaughy 7 Feb 1998, 5 there 13-24 May 2016, and 5 there 4 Apr 2017.

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

Summer: The 11 accepted records are mostly of presumed non-breeding immatures:

3 and 14 Jun 2017 immature photographed at Lake McConaughy (Silcock 2017, NBR Summer Field Report in press)

4 Jun 2013 immature Lake McConaughy (Silcock 2013b)

7 Jun 2008 first alternate photographed Lake McConaughy (Silcock 2008)

19 Jun 2004 first alternate Lake McConaughy (Silcock 2004)

19-20 Jul 2015 adult Lake McConaughy (Silcock 2015b)

24 Jul 2016 adult Lake Ogallala, Keith Co (Silcock 2016)

23 Jul-11 Aug 2014 third cycle immature photographed Merritt Reservoir SRA, Cherry Co (Silcock 2014b, 2014c)

30 Jul 2006 first alternate Lake McConaughy (Silcock 2006)

6 Aug 2017 immature photographed Lake McConaughy (Silcock 2017, NBR Fall Field Report in press)

7 Aug 2012 immature at Lake McConaughy (Silcock 2012)

10 Aug 2018 adult Lake McConaughy (Peterson, Roberts; eBird.org).

Fall: Aug 24, 25, 25 <<<>>> Jan 3, 3, 3

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 count: 5 at Lake McConaughy 8 Oct 2019.

Winter: 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).

There are 11 accepted Nebraska records in the period 5 Jan-2 Feb, mostly adults:

5-12 Jan 2007 adult Branched Oak Lake (Silcock 2007)

5 Jan 2019 “near adult” Lake McConaughy (Mlodinow, Ely eBird.org)

6 Jan 2013 adult Lake McConaughy (Silcock 2013a)

8-20 Jan 2018 four, including two adults and single first- and second-cycle birds Lake McConaughy (Arthur, eBird.org,


11-13 Jan 2019 adult Branched Oak, Lake (Winter, Gannon eBird.org)

14 Jan 1998 adult Lake McConaughy (Silcock and Jorgensen 1998)

22 Jan 2000 third basic Johnson Lake, Gosper and Dawson Cos (Silcock 2000)

15 Jan 2014 immature lingering through this date Lake McConaughy (Silcock 2014a)

16 Jan-15 Feb 2015 adult Lake McConaughy (Silcock 2015a)

30 Jan 2015 immature Harlan Co Reservoir, Harlan Co (Silcock 2015a)

1 Feb 2013 five, including two adults and two immatures, at Lake McConaughy (Silcock 2013a).


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. 2000. Winter Field Report, December 1999 to February 2000. NBR 68: 9-26.

Silcock, W.R. 2004. Summer Field Report, June-July 2004. NBR 72: 78-93.

Silcock, W.R. 2005a. Spring Field Report, March-May 2005. NBR 73: 46-67.

Silcock. W.R. 2005b. Summer Field Report, June-July 2005. NBR 73: 94-113.

Silcock, W.R. 2006. Summer Field Report, June-July 2006. NBR 74: 78-95.

Silcock, W.R. 2007. Winter Field Report, December 2006 to February 2007. NBR 75: 4-12.

Silcock, W.R. 2008. Summer   Field Report, June-July 2008. NBR 76: 94-111.

Silcock, W.R. 2012. Fall Field Report, August-November 2012. NBR 80: 126:157.

Silcock, W.R. 2013a. Winter Field Report, December 2012 to February 2013. NBR 81: 2-20.

Silcock, W.R. 2013b. Summer Field Report, June-July 2013. NBR 81: 102-120.

Silcock, W.R. 2014a. Winter Field Report, December 2013 to February 2014. NBR 82: 2-15.

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

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

Silcock, W.R. 2015a. Winter Field Report, December 2014 to February 2015. NBR 83: 3-21.

Silcock, W.R. 2015b. Summer Field Report, June-July 2015. NBR 83: 102-124.

Silcock, W.R. 2016. Summer Field Report, June-July 2016. NBR 84: 110-131.

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 1998. Winter Field Report, Dec 1997 to Feb 1998. NBR 66: 6-18.

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. 2017. Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus graellsii), Version 1.0. In Birds of Nebraska — Online. www.BirdsofNebraska.org

Birds of Nebraska – Online