Alaska Science Center

Glaucous-winged Gull, Larus glaucesens

High-Priority Species List

Glaucous-winged Gulls are a high priority species because those in western Alaska migrate to Australasia, winter along the coast and feed in land fills and scavenge dead birds.
The Glaucous-winged Gull is abundant in bays, harbors, estuaries and rivers throughout the year. It is also common in coastal cities and towns. These gulls take advantage of opportunities to forage at landfills and fish processing plants (Verbeek 1993). This species breeds from Oregon to Russia, but most nest in Alaska. They breed coastally throughout southern Alaska from Southeast to the west end of the Aleutian Islands. In Russia they breed only on the Commander Islands and the Kamchatka Peninsula. In winter birds from the western end of their range move south along the Pacific coast of Asia as far as Japan and birds in the eastern end of their range winter as far south as Baja California (Harrison 1983, Armstrong 1995, ASIS 2006). Little banding of this species has been done and therefore knowledge of winter distributions has been gathered from observations of birds. About 250,000 birds in 825 colonies nest in Alaska. The largest colony has 12,500 birds at Middleton Island in the Northern Gulf of Alaska (USFWS 2006). If all birds in the western Aleutians (the Near Islands and Rat Islands) move southwest in winter then about 12% of the population winters in Asia, and if the remaining Alaska population moves southeast then 88% would winter in North America.
No. of samples: Total 200 to 300 from Alaska.
Sampling locations: The primary location is the western Aleutian Islands. Samples will be taken from Attu and Buldir and perhaps Amchitka.
Sampling timeframe: During the breeding season in June to August.
Sample demographics: Adults will be sampled during summer.
Methods of capture: The sample goal of 200-300 can most easily be achieved through fecal sampling and/or live-trapping of birds at colonies or on-shore roost sites. Smaller numbers of samples could be obtained from lethal capture (~20-40 birds) if necessary.
Other targeted species: At the proposed primary sampling sites it will be possible to sample small to moderate numbers of Aleutian Terns and Common Eiders.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Migratory Bird Management - Seabird Project
Contact: David Irons

Alaska Maritime NWR
Contact: Jeff Williams
Armstrong, R.H. 1995. Guide to the Birds of Alaska. Alaska Northwest Books, 4th Ed., Anchorage, Alaska.

ASIS. 2006. Alaska seabird information Series, Glaucous-winged Gull. 2006. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Migratory Bird Mgmt Rep., U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Anchorage, Alaska.

Harrison, P. 1983. Seabirds, an identification guide. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2006. Beringian Seabird Colony Catalog -- computer database and Colony Status Record archives. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Migratory Bird Management, Anchorage, Alaska.

Verbeek, N. A. M. 1993. Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens). In the Birds of North America, No. 59 (A. Poole and F. Gill, Eds.). Philadelphia: The Academy of Natural Sciences; Washington, D.C.: The American Ornithologists' Union.

Distribution map of Glaucous-winged Gull

Ranking Score: 10.5

Asian H5N1 ranking criteria for Glaucous-winged Gull, Larus glaucesens.

Total of partial
contact with Asia1
Contact with
known "hot spot"2
Habitat used in
Pop. in Alaska4
Can samples be
Estimate 10% winters in Asia
No known use of AI-infected areas
Estuaries and adjacent terrestrial areas; garbage disposal sites
Approximately 250,000
Location of breeding colonies known
Image of Glaucous-winged Gull, photo by M. Romano