Pacific Gull

Larus pacificus

Pacific Gulls are Australia’s largest gull and they have the largest and deepest bill of any gull. It differs from the similar Kelp Gull in being larger in body and bill, in having:

  • red on both mandibles, not only on the lower mandible,
  • a rounded nostril and not a slit-like nostril,
  • a black sub-terminal band on the tail not a pure white tail and,
  • a narrow white edge to the secondaries whereas the Kelp Gull has a broad white band.
adult Pacific Gull
Adult Pacific Gull. Photo: John Spiers

Description.

Pacific Gulls are very large with a white head, neck and underbody. The mantle and wings are black with a white trailing edge on the wings. The tail is white with a narrow black sub-terminal band. The bills is very deep and heavy, yellow overall with a red tip on both upper and lower mandibles, and rounded nostrils. The iris is whitish, and the legs and feet are yellow. Male and females are alike.

The juvenile is mottled dark brown and has a glossy black bill and dark brown iris. Immatures in first-year plumage are still very dark but have a pale face and the base of the bill is pinkish. Second-year immatures have dark brown wings, a paler rump, and a yellow bill with a black tip.

immature Pacific Gull
Immature Pacific Gull. Photo: John Spiers

Pacific Gulls have a catholic diet feeding on fish, squid, inter-tidal molluscs, echinoderms and crabs. They will also feed on offal, carrion and refuse and will predate other birds taking bird eggs and young and even adults on occasion. Feeds by patrolling beaches and intertidal zone and sometimes plunge-diving. They are often seen breaking open gastropod shells by dropping them from a height.

Breeding occurs from September to January. Sometimes they breed as a pair but more usually they form small, loose colonies. The nest consists of a shallow bowl lined with sticks, grass, feathers and/or seaweed. Both sexes build the nest. Incubation is mainly by the female with the male standing guard. A clutch of three eggs is usual.

Where to find it.

Pacific Gulls are moderately common along the marine shores of the mainland, Kangaroo Island and on smaller islands. They may rarely be found along the Adelaide coast. They prefer sandy coasts and beaches and are less often found on rocky coasts. They do not penetrate far inland but occasionally they may be seen on farmland and rubbish tips near the ocean, or a short way up rivers.

Adults are relatively sedentary, but the young disperse for distances up to 200km.

Two subspecies of Pacific Gull occur in South Australia:

  • Larus pacificus pacificus Latham, 1801 – far South-East.
  • Larus pacificus georgii  P.P.King, 1826 – remaining coastline

 

Updated: 29/06/2019

Description

Where to find it