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Common Gull

An occasional winter visitor to the Dorset coast; smaller than a herring gull and different colouring to the black-headed gull.

Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

This may be the common gull (Larus canus) but here in Dorset it is far from common. This is very much a bird of the northern areas of Britain but they do head to the south coast in winter in some numbers. They have a distinctive call which gives them their alternative name of the mew gull.

I have a problem with identifying them in flight but when you get to see one, like this one, perched on my neighbours roof it is a bit easier. They are about the same size as the black-headed gull but bare very little resemblance to them as they have no black markings on the head and do not have the red legs and beak. The common gull is much smaller than the herring gull and have a green bill and legs not yellow. They also lack the red tip to the bill that the herring gull has. 

As with many gulls in Dorset, one of the best places to see them is the RSPB reserve at Radipole Lake and it is always worth looking amongst the black-headed gulls standing in the car park as you will often find a few common gulls in amongst them.



Common Name Common Gull
Alternative Name(s) Mew Gull
Scientific Name Larus canus
Species Group Birds Gulls Skuas and Terns
Status Occasional
Interest Level
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
Look for

A gull with greenish legs and bill

Identification Notes
  • Although the common gull it is far from common in Dorset
  • Primarily a winter visitor but not in big numbers
  • Smaller than the herring gull and with a greenish bill and legs rather than yellow 
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Gulls Skuas and Terns