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Larus novaehollandiae (Family Laridae)

Silver Gull


The Silver Gull is a very common gull all around the Australian coastal mainland and Tasmania. It also occurs in New Zealand, New Caledonia and South Africa. It is very common near cities. Silver Gulls are occasionally seen far inland along the edges of rivers and inland lakes. It is more rare in northern Australia. (QLD, NSW, VIC, TAS, SA, WA, NT, ISLANDS)


The Silver Gull is a gull-shaped bird that is so well known that identification is certain. It grows to 380-420 mm in length. Its adult plumage is mostly white a grey back. It has a white head without any dark markings. The flight feathers have black tips with white "mirrors". It has a white eye and a red eye-ring. The bill and legs are scarlet. It often has a dark band in its tail. Juvenile birds are marked with pale grey, mottled brown and buff on the back, with a faint brown tinge to the top of the head.

Ecology/Way of Life:

The Silver Gull breeds in small to large colonies on islands, offshore, or in lakes, dams, reservoirs, and saltworks. In a breeding colony there may be to 1000-4000 nests per hectare. The Silver Gull is both territorial and some are highly migratory. They nest on the ground, or in a dead tree in a lake. Near the coast the nest may be lined with seaweed. Here the female lays 3-4 eggs. Both adults share the nesting activities. The young birds are precocious and can become independent only six weeks after hatching. In the dense nesting colonies, if the youngster should accidentally wander too far, is may often be attacked and killed by other adult nesting birds. Silver Gulls feed on fish, plankton and other marine creatures. The Silver Gull has a large number of communication calls.

Preferred Image

Interaction with Humans/Threats:

Silver Gulls have become efficient scavengers and are a nuisance near rubbish dumps, airports and tern colonies. They are bold, gregarious and can become quite tame. This has allowed their numbers to increase significantly near cities.

Other Comments:

Larus novaehollandiae, Stephens, 1826. Larus is derived from the Greek word laros, which means a bird, most probably a gull. Novaehollandiae comes from a Latin word novus meaning new, and hollandiae, meaning Holland, named by the early Dutch seamen when they struck the Western Australian coast on their westward voyage to Batavia, or Jakarta the capital of modern Indonesia.

Further Reading:

Blakers, M., Davies, S. J. J. F., & Reilly, P. N. (1984). The Atlas of Australian Birds. p.195, Melbourne University Press.

Davey, K. (1998) A Photographic Guide to Seashore Life of Australia. p.137, New Holland Press, Sydney.

Morecombe, M. (2000). Field Guide to Australian Birds. p.142-43, Steve Parish Publishing.

Pizzey, G. (1980). A Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. p.26, Collins.

Pringle, J. D. (1987). The Shorebirds of Australia. The National Photographic Index of Australian Wildlife. p.486-491. Angus & Robertson.

Reader's Digest (1977). Complete Book of Australian Birds. p.206, Reader's Digest Services.

Slater, P. (1986). The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds. p.136, Rigby.


Text, map & photograph by Keith Davey.

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