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Lesser Black-backed Gull
Includes Heuglin's Gull
Adult: The Lesser Black-backed Gull is a large white-headed gull which comes into contact with similar species across its range. Nominate fuscus or Baltic Gull is long-winged with a black mantle and yellow legs in adult plumage differentiating it from similar Herring Gulls (mantle colour, leg colour & wing-length) and Great Black-backed Gulls (leg colour & build).
Intermedius is less elegant, having shorter, broader wings than nominate but longer than graelsii. Graelsii, the subspecies of North-western Europe has a build closer to Herring Gull or Yellow-legged Gull rather than Baltic Gull. It is told from these by its slate grey back, darker than both.
Younger birds: Lesser Black-backed Gull takes four years to reach full adult plumage, starting with a dark and heavily patterned brown and gradually attaining adult characteristics.
The Lesser Black-backed Gull is part of a gull clade called the large white-headed gulls. This includes Yellow-legged Gull, Herring Gull and several other species. The taxonomy of this group is currently being radically remodelled with many species being split. A taxon here included under Lesser Black-backed Gull may be candidate for full species in due course: L. heuglini.
Four subspecies are recognized:
Quite catholic in its choice of habitats, perhaps less so than Herring Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls are commonly found nesting on rooftops in coastal towns and cities as well as more traditional areas such as rocky islands and grass-covered tops of mainland cliffs.
In winter these birds can be found amongst mixed species gull flocks both on the coast and inland, often frequenting landfill sites. On passage these birds can occur anywhere.
Lesser Black-backed Gulls are opportunist feeders, eating anything they can digest and utilising transient food sources. They often use landfills for scavanging during the winter but they will take live prey given the opportunity. This includes molluscs, worms and crustaceans. Like other closely related species, Lesser Black-backed Gulls are omnivorous.
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