Bird profile: European Herring Gull

The loud laughing call is well known in the northern hemisphere. The European Herring Gull also has a yelping alarm call and a low barking anxiety call.
European Herring Gull chicks and fledglings emit a distinctive, repetitive high-pitched 'peep', accompanied by a head-flicking gesture when begging for food from, or calling to their parents. It should also be noted that adult gulls in urban areas will also exhibit this behaviour when fed by humans.

Communication between these birds is complex and highly developed — employing both calls and body language. The warning sounds to chicks are the most obvious to interpret. The warning to their chicks sounds almost like a small dog that barks. If the danger gets closer the adult birds repeat this sound, and if a danger is considered very dangerous the "bark/sound" comes in sequences of three quick such sounds.

The warning sound from a flying bird to a flock of fully fledged birds sounds very different. And it seems that all kinds of Gulls understand the "general alert warning sound" of all other Gulls. There's little doubt that the Gull's screaming in fact is kind of communication. Or in other words "a language", of course limited to the present tense, but it still obviously include rather complex matters, like "follow me"

Two identical vocalizations can have very different (sometimes opposite) meanings, for example — depending on the positioning of the head, body, wings and tail relative to each other and the ground in the calling gull.

The Herring Gull doesn't need swimming, but seems to enjoy all kind of waters, especially on hot summer days.

It has long been believed that the European Herring Gull has extremely keen vision in daylight and a night vision ability that is equal or superior to that of humans - however it is now known that this species is also capable of seeing ultraviolet light. The European Herring Gull also appears to have excellent hearing and a sense of taste that is particularly responsive to salt and acidity.

European Herring Gulls can frequently be seen to drop shelled prey from a height in order to break the shell. In addition, the European Herring Gull has been observed using pieces of bread as bait with which to catch goldfish. The gull may also rinse food items in water in an attempt to clean them or render them more palatable before swallowing.

Whilst the European Herring Gull is fully capable of consuming seawater, utilizing specialized glands located above the eyes to remove excess salt from the body (which is then excreted in solution through the nostrils and drips from the end of the bill), it will drink fresh water in preference, if available.

European Herring Gulls are long lived, with a maximum age of 49 years recorded.

Wingspan: 125 to 155 cm