Larus fuscus (Lesser black-backed gull) 

Kleinswartrugmeeu [Afrikaans]; Kleine mantelmeeuw, Baltische mantelmeeuw [Dutch]; Goéland brun [French]; Heringsmöwe [German]; Gaivota-d'asa-escura [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Charadriiformes > Family: Laridae >  Genus: Larus

Larus fuscus (Lesser black-backed gull)  Larus fuscus (Lesser black-backed gull) 

Lesser black-backed gull vagrant, Leeupan, South Africa (recorded in August 2008). [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Distribution and habitat

Breeds from the eastern coast of North America through Iceland and the UK to the White Sea, heading south in the non-breeding season to the eastern Mediterranean, the Black Sea and sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa it is a sparse and erratic visitor, mainly occurring in northern Zimbabwe and Namibia, central and southern Mozambique, the Free State and the North-West Province. It generally prefers large lakes, pans, dams and rivers.

Distribution of Lesser black-headed gull in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Palearctic breeding migrant, staying for extend periods of time in southern Africa, so arrival and departure dates are unknown.


Omnivorous, doing most of its foraging by diving into the water to catch prey, such as the fish Kapenta (Limnothrissa miodon), or by hawking insects aerially.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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