Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Lesser Black-backed Gull - Larus fuscus
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General Comments Hardly any other gull species' status in North Carolina has changed as rapidly over the last 20-30 years as has the Lesser Black-backed Gull. Formerly considered a rare winter visitor, along with the Iceland and Glaucous gulls, this European species has "taken off" as a wintering species in the eastern part of North America, even though it still has not been confirmed as a breeding bird in North America! Somewhere, in the boreal zone of northeastern Canada, there must be Lessers nesting on this side of the Atlantic, as it seems illogical to assume the thousands of birds now wintering in the East all fly back and forth to Europe twice a year. At any rate, the species is now uncommon to even locally fairly common along the coast in the cooler months, and inland birds are showing up more frequently, though there is just one record for the mountains. Its habits are very similar to other gulls, foraging around the inshore ocean, coastlines, fish houses, etc., and roosting during the day within large flocks of gulls, especially Herring Gulls, on sand flats.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
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Coastal Plain Winter visitor/resident, greatly increasing in recent years. Formerly (prior to about 1990), rare along the northern and central coast, and very rare to rare in the southern portions. However, by 2016, it is uncommon to locally common (Cape Hatteras area) along the northern coast, uncommon to at times fairly common along the central coast, and uncommon in the southern coastal areas. Uncommon in the Tidewater zone. Very rare to locally rare farther inland, with at least 17 such inland records, though most are from Wayne. Occurs mainly from late Sep to early Apr, though scattered records all summer. Unlike most other "rare" gulls, numbers can now been seen by mid-fall. Peak counts: 600, Cape Hatteras Point, 26 Oct 2014; 578, Cape Hatteras CBC, 27 Dec 2013; 491, Cape Hatteras CBC, 27 Dec 2016; 330, north end of Ocracoke Island, 12 Oct 2013; 282, Cape Hatteras CBC, 27 Dec 2015; 160, Cape Hatteras Point, 11 Dec 2008; 150, same area, on the early date of 8 Oct 2006. Peak far inland counts: 67 in a field near Hobgood (Halifax) on 8 Feb 2015; 41 in a field along US 258 in Halifax on 13 Feb 2013.
Piedmont Winter visitor. Rare to locally uncommon, but increasing, at large lakes and landfills in the Triangle area and in the Roanoke Rapids area. Surprisingly, there are apparently just six records west of Jordan Lake -- three for Lake Townsend (Guilford), two for Lake Norman, and one for W. Kerr Scott Reservoir (Wilkes). Mostly early Nov to early Mar; casually from early Oct to early May. Peak counts: 16, south Wake landfill, 6 Feb 2016; 15, Wake landfill, 9 Jan 2010; 11, Wake landfill and Falls Lake, 29 Dec 2001; 11, Jordan Lake, 8 Mar 2014.
Mountains Casual or accidental. The only record is a first-year bird photographed at the Hooper Lane Sod Farms (Henderson) on 7 Oct 2015, and remaining through 6 Nov 2015* [Chat 80:15 link], [Chat 80:38 link].
Finding Tips This species is fairly easy to find in the large gull flocks that congregate at Cape Hatteras Point from late fall to early Mar. On a good day, ten or more may be found in that vicinity, but it usually requires considerable driving of beaches to reach double digits. Small numbers may be found along most of the coast; your best bets elsewhere are at landfills or at fish houses.
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Attribution LeGrand[2017-08-23], LeGrand[2016-09-28], LeGrand[2016-06-02]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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NA Maps
(source NatureServe)

View NatureServe distribution maps for Larus fuscus