Kelp GullLarus dominicanus

George L. Armistead/VIREO
immature (first year)
George L. Armistead/VIREO
Kelp Gull


23" Once thought to be subspecies of Lesser black-backed Gull but heavier bodied and billed, duller legs and darker above. Similar to Western Gull subspecies wymani, but legs are a dull yellowish green. Adults have black upperparts and wings. The head, underparts, tail and the small areas of wing tips are white. The bill is yellow with a red spot, and the legs are greenish-yellow and become brighter and more yellow during the breeding season. Juveniles have dull legs, black bill, a dark tail band, and an overall grey-brown plumage densely edged whitish, but they quickly change into a pale base to the bill and largely white head and underparts. They take three or four years to attain adult plumage.


The call is a strident ki-och.



Maritime coasts, bays, inlets and estuaries. Fond of landfills.


Found along coasts and islands through much of the southern hemisphere, but has nested on islands off Louisiana in Gulf of Mexico where it hybridizes with Herring Gulls.


Kelp gulls are opportunistic feeders, preying on and scavenging everything from fish to even their own chicks and eggs. They will eat scraps scavenged from petrels and will frequently raid penguin colonies. In Argentina they have been observed feeding on live right whales using their powerful bill to peck into the skin and blubber, often leaving the whales with large open sores, some of which have been observed to be several feet in diameter.


They nest in loose colonies or scattered single pairs on off-shore islands, laying 2-3 mottled eggs in a well-made bowl of or a loose pile of plants and seaweed on the ground, near rocks or vegetation. Both the adults build the nest, incubate the eggs, brood and feed the young. Eggs hatch in 23 to 30 days and young fledge in 45 to 60 days. Most Kelp gulls ultimately return to colonies where they were born.


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