Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Great Black-backed Gull - Larus marinus
LARIDAE Members:
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General Comments Few native species are less popular than the Great Black-backed Gull, the largest of the world's gull species. It has begun nesting along the coast of the state, and both it and the Herring Gull prey on eggs and chicks of terns and plovers during the breeding season. At some point, wildlife officials might need to discourage nesting by the species, at least in some areas along the coast. As with many other gulls, Great Black-backeds have greatly increased in overall numbers in the past few decades, as the birds feed on human garbage and discarded fish, among many other items. The species has always been a winter resident along the coast, but it was uncommon along the southern coast until about 20 years ago. Nowadays, it is one of the most frequently seen of our winter birds in coastal areas (though less numerous than Ring-billed and Herring gulls), and a few are seen well inland, as far west as the Winston-Salem area, and once in the mountains. As with other gulls, they occur over the inshore ocean, along the coast, and in estuaries and sounds.
Breeding Status Breeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S3B,S5N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Permanent resident, with migratory movements. Fairly common and slowly increasing coastal breeder from Cape Hatteras northward; uncommon to fairly common breeder in the central coastal areas, but rare to uncommon in the southern areas, where first recorded nesting in the lower Cape Fear River in 2004. At other seasons, very common to abundant along the northern half of the coast, becoming less numerous farther southward, but fairly common and increasing on the southern coast. In the Tidewater zone, quite common in brackish waters, and uncommon to fairly common at larger lakes. Farther inland, absent to rare in most counties, but locally uncommon in a few places, such as Goldsboro. Numbers increase in Sep and Oct, and decrease in Apr. Peak counts: ?. Peak far inland count: 26, at a pond near Tarboro (Edgecombe), 13 Jan 2022.
Piedmont Winter visitor. Rare but increasing in the Triangle area (mainly Falls and Jordan lakes and local landfills); very rare in the Triad area (Greensboro and Winston-Salem). Casual elsewhere, with just a single record from Lake Norman/Charlotte: one photographed on this lake on 12 Sep 2017, after passage of Hurricane Irma. One was photographed at Belews Lake (Rockingham) on 13 May 2019. Mostly early Dec to mid-Mar, with a few scattered records throughout the year (none yet for Jun, Aug, or Nov). Peak counts: 19, Raleigh area, 10-19 Feb 1998; 13, Falls Lake, 2 Jan 1999; 12, Falls Lake, 29 Dec 2001.
Mountains One was seen and photographed at Ecusta Pond (Transylvania) on 1 Aug 2022 [Chat 87:11 link], quite an early date for an inland bird, and a first report for the province. The record has yet to be reviewed by the NC BRC.
Finding Tips None needed.
Attribution LeGrand[2023-03-18], LeGrand[2023-03-14], LeGrand[2022-04-25]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NC Breeding Season Map
Map depicts assumed breeding season abundance for the species.