Home | What's New | About Martin | Contact | Can I use these Images? | General Links |
 Gulls | Other Birds: Identification | Other Birds: Interesting/Unusual | Dragonflies | Butterflies | Other Wildlife | Scenics | Places
Gull Links |

The modern colonization of Iceland by the Lesser Black-backed Gull is of interest to all gull afficionados, and I am delighted to be able to tell the story as provided by Yann Kolbeinsson of Iceland:

Update February 15, 2001: now with photos of juvs and adults.


The first observation was made in 1913 in Reykjavík. It started to breed in SE-Iceland around 1928 and became common around the southern part of Faxaflói (near Reykjavík) after 1930 but the first nests in SW-Iceland were found in 1952-1954. The breeding population at the end of the Reykjanes peninsula (west of Reykjavík) was discovered in 1958. In 1970 the breeding population was estimated at 10,000 pairs and in 1982 at 15,000 pairs. During the summer 1990 an estimation was made on the population on the Reykjanes peninsula and around Reykjavík. Now there were around 20,000 pairs just in this area (16,500 of them in only one colony which is near and around the international airport). The total population is 25,000-35,000 pairs and the species is most common in the south and south-west and most rare in the north and north-east. And the population is increasing.

Usually the first spring observations are made in the last week of February/first week of March, with most birds arriving in end March/April. By the end of October most birds have left Iceland, with a few late birds staying into November. Winter observations are annual, <5 birds (probably weak birds that couldn't leave in the autumn).
This year(2000) the first bird was seen on 29 Feb in the north-east, then 3 ind in Reykjavík on 11 March.

The Icelandic birds are pure graellsii, and I don't think there are any intermedius in the eastern part of the island, although this has never been checked out (and this gull is not very common there). There are no known records of fuscus in Iceland (and no intermedius, but birders have never looked for that ssp!)."

- and in response to this follow-up inquiry by me: "I do have one follow-up question: when you say that the SW birds are pure graellsii, do you mean that they are identical in structure (on standing bird, tip of tail is longer than the tip of P6, counting from the inside) and in the mantle shade to graellsii in Britain? - i.e. I am seeking to confirm that the birds show no signs of introgression from intermedius."
- Yann replied: "Yes, that's what I mean although I've not checked out the length of tail and P6... Our birds look just like the UK birds and have always been considered to be graellsii as they are thought to originate from the British Isles. I'll try to think about this detail when they'll be here this spring. According to recoveries, Icelandic birds seem to winter in NW-Spain, Portugal and NW-Africa (e.g. Morocco). They fly by the Faroes and the British Isles on their way to and from Iceland. I don't know of any recovery in the New World (although a Herring Gull and a Common Gull have been found in Newfoundland..) During the past summers many birds have been colour-ringed in Reykjavík, and this program is still going on, so watch out for colour-rings."

- I will update this page with any more information provided by Yann.