Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player


Search in the Encyclopedia

Herring gull


length: 60 centimeters
wingspan: 144 centimeters


1 kilogram


white with gray wings and back, noticeable yellow eyes and beak with red spot, flesh-colored legs


maximum 34 years


everything; from shellfish to fish, from rubbish to small young birds


fly, walk and swim


breeding season: end April-June around 28-30 days
number of eggs per nest: usually 3

  • Dut: Zilvermeeuw
  • Eng: Herring Gull
  • Fren: Goéland argenté
  • Ger: Silbermöwe
  • Dan: Sølvmige
  • Nor: Grimike
  • Frisian: Sulverkob
  • Ital: Gabbiano reale
  • Lat: Larus argentatus
Herring gull, Marijke de Boer

Herring Gull

With their intense yellow eyes, herring gulls look quite agressive. Their downout brutal behavior contributes further to this poor image. They shamelessly steal bread from your hand and are seen as predators of young animals and eggs. However, it has never been proved that gulls are the cause of declining bird or other animal populations. What's more, they clean up lots of litter: ice cream cones that fall on the ground or french fries are gone in no time.

On Texel

Herring gull with starfish, foto fitis, adriaan dijksen

Thousand of pairs of herring gulls build nests on Texel. The numbers fluctuate strongly from year to year. In 2007, there were more lesser black-backed gulls, compared to the previous year. These birds are not direct competitors of each other on the island. They forage for food in different areas. The herring gulls look for food on the island and in the Wadden Sea while the lesser black-backed gull forages in the North Sea. You see both species by the TESO ferry. The Texelaars call the herring gull a 'large gull' (groote meeuw).

  • Combated since the olden days
    Herring gull, foto fitis, adriaan dijksen

    Due to their bad reputation, gulls were combatted in the previous century. Gathering gull eggs in the 1930s had an unexpected effect: the gulls started spreading out more in the dunes. Extensive gathering took place during the Second World War to supplement the scarse amount of available food. Since the 1960s, gulls have no longer been combatted and the numbers grew quickly.

  • Shrinking populations
    Herring gull, foto fitis, adriaan dijksen

    The number of herring gulls in the wadden region has been declining for a number of years. In 2004, an estimated 30,000 birds nested on the Wadden Islands, as opposed to 90,000 in the 1980s. It is still unknown why the population of herring gulls is declining. In 10 years, between 1984 and1994, the herring gulls retreated from the dunes in the North- and South-Holland. Most likely, the cause was due to the arrival of fox in the Holland dunes. Another possible cause is the competition for food from their far family, the lesser black-backed gulls, whose population in past years has grown immensely.

  • Distribution and habitat

    Herring gulls are common resident birds in the entire North Atlantic region. They are also common in the Netherlands, with a preference for the coast. The breeding colonies usually lie in the dunes and are populated between March through August. The gulls spread out and are usually found on industrial areas, breakwaters, in cities and wherever lots of garbage is found. Herring gulls that brood in the Netherlands generally remain in the country during the winter.