Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Short-billed Gull - Larus brachyrhynchus
LARIDAE Members:
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General Comments In summer 2021, the American Ornithological Society (AOS) split the former Mew Gull (Larus canus) into two species -- the European-breeding Common Gull (L. canus) and the western North American-breeding Short-billed Gull (L. brachyrhynchus). This complicates records committee decisions in the eastern United States, including here in North Carolina. Short-billed Gull is a slightly smaller bird than is the Common Gull; adults have a slightly darker gray back than do adults of Common Gull, which are slightly darker gray than the backs of Ring-billed Gull. In winter, when both of these species can show up in the state, the small and slender yellow bill of adults typically has a small amount of black near the tip -- in Common often a black ring but on Short-billed usually just a partial ring. Both have dark eyes, to separate adults and sub-adults from the yellow-eyed Ring-billed Gull. Immature plumages are very tricky, and certainly photos will be needed of any stage to document either one of these two in North Carolina! Of the five reports of "Mew Gull" (broad sense) for North Carolina, all from the coast in winter, four are considered to be of the Old World species -- Common Gull -- and one of the North American species -- Short-billed Gull.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Provisional
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SA
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain One record. Accidental or casual stray. The only published record is one first-winter individual, seen on Ocracoke Island at Hatteras Inlet, on 27 Dec 1983* [Chat 48:94-95 link]. There were apparently no photographs for review. Thus, its acceptance in 1983-84 placed it only onto the state's Provisional List. Note that a current NC BRC might want to re-evaluate this report and the other four "Mew Gull" reports, to make sure that each has been identified to the correct "new" species.
Piedmont No records.
Mountains No records.
Finding Tips You likely will need to find a large number (hundreds or more) of gulls to sort through, at rest. Thus, you might need to be at Cape Hatteras Point, or at a coastal landfill, to even begin to think about Short-billed, Common, California, and other rare gulls!
Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-14], Howard[2021-07-12], LeGrand[2021-07-12]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.