Kelp Gull

Did you know?

The yelping 'yo-yo-yo-yo' call of the Kelp Gull is used in many films with coastal or marine scenes.

A distinctive, strident repeated 'ee-ah', also a wide variety of raucous and yelping notes.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
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Breeding season: 
September to December
Clutch Size: 
2 to 3
29 days
Nestling Period: 
45 days
Conservation Status
Basic Information
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What does it look like?

The Kelp Gull is a large black-backed gull with a white tail and a large yellow bill with a red spot on the lower tip. It is the second largest gull in Australia. The wing has a wide trailing edge and a small white 'window' in the wingtip. Newly-fledged Kelp Gulls are brown with paler mottling on the hind neck and breast and have a black bill. Immature Kelp Gulls have mottled brown wings and back with a whitish body and an all- yellow bill. The Kelp Gull is gregarious, and tends to roost, feed and breed in flocks.

Similar species: 

The Kelp Gull is the second largest gull in the region, being smaller and less bulky than the Pacific Gull, Larus pacificus, and with a less massive bill. Its tail is all white, with no black band. Immature Kelp Gulls can also be confused with the vagrant Black-tailed Gull, Larus crassirostris, from Japan.

Where does it live?

The Kelp Gull has become established in Australia since the 1940s, with the first breeding recorded on Moon Island near Lake Macquarie in New South Wales in 1958. Their numbers have increased rapidly since the 1960s and they are now common in many parts of the south-east and south-west coasts, and especially in Tasmania. It is widespread in New Zealand, and is found on most sub-Antarctic islands, as well as on islands south of the Antarctic Convergence and the Antarctic Peninsula, South America, and Africa.


The Kelp Gull prefers the sheltered parts of coasts such as bays, inlets and estuaries; also beaches and reefs on off-shore islands. It is likely that the Kelp Gull is in serious competition with the endemic Pacific Gull because of their similar habitat, food and habits.

Seasonal movements: 

The Kelp Gull is resident in many parts of Australia, in others it is dispersive although this varies from colony to colony. In some colonies, parts of the population are apparantly resident or sedentary.

What does it do?

The Kelp Gull forages on land or in water, rarely in the air. It feeds mainly on fish and crustaceans, but will scavenge when an opportunity arises. Like the Pacific Gull, the Kelp Gull habitually drops molluscs from midair onto rocks to smash them.


The Kelp Gull nests in loose colonies or scattered single pairs on off-shore islands where breeding birds maintain large territories against other gulls.The nests of Kelp Gulls can be a well-made bowl of plants stems, grasses and seaweeds or a loose pile of material on the ground, near rocks or in a tussock. Both the adults build the nest, incubate the eggs, brood and feed the young.

Living with us

Kelp Gulls occasionally become entangled in fishing lines, are occasionally illegally shot, and have been poisoned. In New Zealand, the Kelp Gull was regularly eated by the Maori.

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