Arctic species: Glaucous Gull

Where the Black-legged Kittiwake has a very friendly appearance (though, ask the Polar Cod on how friendly they are), the Glaucous Gull looks much like the aggressive bastard he is. There are no birds of prey on Spitsbergen, but the Glaucous Gull (and various skuas) happily take their place. They are often seen close to bird colonies where they feed on eggs or chicks. With the smaller species, like the Little Auk and Black Guillemot they can even swallow an adult in one gulp.

Grote Burgemeester; Glaucous Gull; Larus hyperboreus
Adult and juvenile Glaucous Gull fight over a dead Thick-billed Murre chick.


Glaucous Gull – Larus hyperboreus
Length 63-68cm, wingspan 138-158cm
A large gull with silver-grey back and white wingtips
Juvenile birds are cafe-au-lait-coloured and it takes four years before they get their adult plumage where the birds more and more resemble the adult birds.

Another source of food is leftovers from Polar Bear kills. They are often seen in the pack ice, waiting for their turn to grab a piece of seal meat when the bears are done. They also scavenge on other carcasses or are even seen on garbage dumps. They are not as common as the Kittiwakes, but still hard to miss, even with a short visit to the archipelago.

Adult Glaucous Gull in flight


Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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