Red-billed Gulls

Red-billed Gulls (Larus scopulinus)

The Red-billed gull, Larus scopulinus is a native of New Zealand, being found throughout the country and on outlying islands including the Chatham Islands and Sub-antarctic islands.

Flock of Red-billed Gulls on the Ground
Flock of Red-billed Gulls on the Ground

It is the smallest gull commonly seen in New Zealand; a recent estimate of the population puts it at half a million birds in the country. Until recently it was regarded as a subspecies of the Silver Gull L. novaehollandiae found in Australia, and the two species are very similar in appearance. However the most recent research suggests that they are not particularly closely related (see Shirihai, 2002).

Behaviorally, the Red-Billed gulls is a typical gull. It is an aggressive scavenger and kleptoparasite. Large numbers now live in towns and cities (most New Zealand cities are coastal or nearly so), feeding out of rubbish bins.


The Red-billed Gull is a fairly small gull with an all-red bill, red legs and feet, pale grey wings, and black wingtips.

There is virtually no sexual dimorphism (visual physical differences between the sexes).

Nesting / Breeding:

Nesting is in large colonies; the birds form pair bonds which endure across seasons, but there is a certain amount of extra-pair copulation. Courtship feeding is an important part of the preparation for mating.

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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