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Black-tailed Gull

Larus crassirostris

Length: 19 inches Wingspan: 50 inches Seasonality: Non-resident in South Dakota
ID Keys: White rump, dark tail with white edges, dark grey mantle, white underparts, yellow legs, yellow bill with black and red tip

Black-tailed Gull - Larus crassirostrisThe Black-tailed Gull is a native of eastern Asia. In North America, they are rare visitors, but they have been found in many locations, including on the Atlantic coast.  They are well named, with the trademark white rump and black tail making the Black-tailed Gull relatively easy to differentiate from other Larus gulls with similar body plumage.  In Southeast Asia, they are sometimes referred to as the "cat gull", a reference to their cat-like, mewing call.

Habitat: Found in coastal environments, near quieter waters such as estuaries and bays. Breeding colonies are found in rocky coastal cliffs, or sandy shorelines.  Post-breeding birds disperse and may be found well offshore, but still typically remain in the same southeastern Asian waters.

Diet: Omnivorous. Food items may include fish, crustaceans, mollusks, insects, marine worms, carrion, and refuse.

Behavior: Uses a variety of foraging techniques, depending upon location and food item.  They will harass other seabirds to steal their food.  They have adapted well to a human presence, and will follow ships for scraps and offal. 

Nesting: A colonial nester, some colonies of Black-tailed Gulls may number in the thousands.  The nest is a grassy shallow mound with a depression in the middle.  The female lays 2 or 3 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them.  When the eggs hatch, both parents help raise the young.

Interactive eBird Map: Click to access an interactive eBird map of Black-tailed Gull sightings

Song: Has a harsh, cat-like mewing call.

Migration:  Breeds along the coastlines of China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, and eastern Russia.  They do disperse from breeding areas once young have fledged, but are not long-distance migrants, with most birds wintering in the same southeastern Asian haunts.

Similar Species: Similar to other Larus gull species in general structure and body plumage, but tail pattern makes the gull relatively easy to identify.

Conservation Status: Populations are large and stable, and they are found over a wide geographic area.  The IUCN lists the Black-tailed Gull as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) - Black-tailed Gull

2) BirdLife International - Black-tailed Gull

3) AvianWeb - Black-tailed Gull

Photo Information: Photo taken by Kevin Lin - Photo licensed under Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.


Click below for a higher-resolution map
Black-tailed Gull - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Non-resident in South Dakota

Additional Black-tailed Gull Photos (coming soon!!)