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Are sea gulls actually called sea gulls or is there another name for them?

Sent in by Adam Hunt

The word seagull is actually an informal way of referring to any of the species that belong to the family Laridae, the gulls. There is not actually a single species called the seagull.

It can be difficult to separate the many different species of gulls to the untrained eye but they all have subtle differences in size, leg colour, plumage and behaviour. You can compare them through our guide to the gull family.

We are blessed in the UK with a number of gull species, seven of which are known to breed here and at least ten other species are sporadic visitors to our shores. As gulls are a familiar sight across the UK many have local nicknames that reflect their plumage or behaviour.

Arguably the most familiar of our gulls is the large and belligerent herring gull - the one most likely to steal your chips at the beach! This bird creates mixed emotions in the UK. Love them or hate them, there is no denying that they are imposing birds with their striking plumage and loud calls. Some of the local names such as silver back or silvery gull stem from the light grey wing feathers but in some places they are also called the cat gull due to the mewing call they make.

The lesser black-backed gull has been known as the coddy moddy which is thought to be linked to the excitable manner with which it pursues schools of young fish such as cod.

The great black-backed gull is sometimes referred to as the goose gull which may be a reflection on the birds size as it is larger than some species of goose.

Another widely known gull is the black-headed gull which is smaller than the herring gull and is often found feeding inland on ploughed fields. They often share these ploughed fields with lapwings which may explain why they are sometimes referred to as the peewit gull, peewit being a widely used nickname for the lapwing. The black-headed gull is also known as the tumbling gull which hints at another interesting behaviour. During the summer months, these gulls often take to the skies inland and chase flying insects, performing amazing aerial maneuvers in order to catch emergent flying ants. Look out for this on hot summer evenings, particularly over grassland.

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