Black-tailed gull

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Black-tailed gull
Laridae in Beijing Zoo.JPG
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Laridae
Genus: Larus
Species: L. crassirostris
Binomial name
Larus crassirostris
Vieillot, 1818, Nagasaki

The black-tailed gull (Larus crassirostris) is a gull native to shorelines of East Asia.


The black-tailed gull is medium-sized (46 cm), with a wingspan of 126–128 cm. It has yellow legs and a red and black spot at the end of the bill. Males and females have identical plumage and features, although males are larger in size than females.[2] This gull takes four years to reach full adult plumage.[3] As the name suggests, it has a black tail. The bird has a cat-like call, giving it its Japanese name — umineko, "sea cat", and Korean name — gwaeng-yi gull, which means "cat" gull. In Hachinohe they are one of the 100 Soundscapes of Japan.[citation needed]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The species is resident to coastlines of the East China Sea, Japan, Manchuria and the Kuril Islands. It is a vagrant to Alaska and North America[4][5] and has been found in the Philippines.[6]

In Japan[edit]

The bird is common in Japan, nesting from Hokkaido to Western Kyushu. It has caused flights to be delayed at Haneda Airport in Tokyo.[7]

An enormous gathering of black-tailed gulls can be found at the Kabushima at Hachinohe, Aomori, Japan. A Shinto shrine was raised by fishermen in 1269 (though it has been rebuilt several times since) at which the black-tailed gull, is seen as a messenger of the goddess of the fishery. For over 700 years, the species has enjoyed reverence, feeding and protection from the local population. As a result, every summer, over 40,000 black-tailed gulls nest and raise their young in the grounds of the shrine and the surrounding island, which has been designated a National Natural Monument by the government of Japan. The gulls are very tame and are a popular local tourist attraction.[8]

Around 5,000 birds also nest at Fumi-shima in Shimane Prefecture near Izumo Shrine,[9] and there is a large colony at Teuri Island in Hokkaido.[10]

In North America[edit]

A rare visitor to the United States, a black-tailed gull was spotted from Burlington, Vermont, in October 2005.[11] The species has been spotted in Illinois several times.[12]


The black-tailed gull feeds mainly on small fish, molluscs, crustaceans scraps and carrion. It often follows ships and commercial fishing fleets. It also steals food from other seabirds. It is a colonial nester, with colonies forming in mid-April. 2–3 eggs are laid by early June. Incubation lasts approximately 24 days.[13]



  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Larus crassirostris". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 5 April 2016. 
  2. ^ Chochi, Michiyo; Niizuma, Yasuaki; Takagi, Masaoki (2002). "Sexual differences in the external measurements of Black-tailed Gulls breeding on Rishiri Island, Japan". Ornithological Science. 1 (2): 163–166. 
  3. ^ Doherty, Paul. "Black-tailed Gull: a photo essay". 
  4. ^ Black-tailed Gull Audubon Field Guide Retrieved April 5, 2016
  5. ^ "Black-tailed Gull". 
  6. ^ "Black-tailed Gull Larus crassirostris Factsheet". BirdLife International. 
  7. ^ Shooing away pesky birds never-ending job at Haneda November 22, 2003 The Japan Times Retrieved April 5, 2016
  8. ^ Otaka, Tomoko. "Power spots and prehistory in beautiful Aomori Prefecture". The Japan Times. 
  9. ^ Bamforth, Chris (28 April 2006). "Here be the land of the gods". The Japan Times. 
  10. ^ Brazil, Mark (5 July 2000). "Migrants and vagrants under Teuri's crags". The Japan Times. 
  11. ^ "Black-tailed Gull, Larus crassirostris, Charlotte Town Beach, Charlotte, Chittenden Co., VT, 23 October 2005". 
  12. ^ Swick, Nate. "Rare – Black-tailed Gull – Illinois January 11, 2016". American Birding Association blog. 
  13. ^ Boles, Walter (2009). Josep del Hoyo; Andrew Elliott; David A. Christie, eds. Handbook of Birds of the World, Volume 3. Barcelona, Spain: Lynx Edicions. 

External links[edit]