Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
The red dot on the herring gull beak is an indicator to gull chicks that food is on its way. The reaction to this dot has been used as the basis for many animal behaviour studies.
At up to 65 cm, male and female herring gulls are similar in size and colour. Its back and wings are grey, and its wings are tipped in black with white spots. The rest of its body and head are white and its legs are pink. Its bill is distinctive yellow with a red spot on its lower jaw.
The herring gull is present year-round on the Great Lakes and all along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America. In summer, its range extends throughout Canada to the north coast and Baffin Island. Wintering populations can be found immediately south of the Great Lakes, and along the coastline and river systems of both eastern and western North America.
This gull species nests in colonies near fresh or salt water. Preferred nest sites include rocky outcrops, sandy coasts with emergent grasses, cliffs, and grassy islands. The nest is constructed of grass and moss, and lined with fine vegetation and feathers and is often hidden by surrounding vegetation. One to four olive, bluish, or cinnamon, brown-spotted eggs are laid, and both sexes incubate them for up to four weeks. The chicks are able to move about by themselves upon hatching, but are fed by both parents. Young leave the parents permanently about 35 days after hatching.
The herring gull eats a wide variety of foods, and, thrives on human refuse and hand-outs where available. Natural foods of this species include fruits and berries, insects and other invertebrates, small birds and mammals, carrion, and the eggs and young of other gull species. Young birds are fed many of the same foods as adults, but rely mainly on small prey, such as insects.
The herring gull employs a variety of feeding strategies, including pecking at the ground, diving after aquatic prey, and dipping at the surface of the water. Pirating of food from other birds is commonplace. Young birds are fed regurgitated food by their parents.