Leith Birds: Gulls

This is the 2nd in a series of guest posts on birds you might see in Leith by Juliet Wilson

Gulls in Leith

Most people are familiar with gulls, there can be a lot of them around and they can create quite a disturbance when they flock together in large numbers. They are however birds with a lot of character and are worth watching as they stamp on the spot on Leith Links (imitating rain to attract worms to the surface) or chase each other over the Water of Leith. Did you know that there are three species of gull that can be seen regularly in and around Leith and the Water of Leith?

Black-headed Gull

This is the smallest of the three gulls that are seen regularly around Leith. In the summer months it is easily recognisable by its dark brown head. In the winter it loses its dark head and has just a few black markings on its head (see photo). Young gulls have speckled patterns on the lower parts of their wings.

Herring Gull

This is probably the most common of the three gulls seen regularly around Leith. It is a large bird, white underneath and grey on top. It has pink legs and a yellow beak with a red spot on it. In winter its head turns grey and can look very dark. Young herring gulls are mottled brown and look identical to the young lesser black backed gull (see below). Though it may not seem like it, its numbers are declining and it is in fact on the red list (which means that it is cause for special conservation concern).

You can find out more about the herring gull on the RSPB website – http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/h/herringgull/index.aspx

Lesser Black backed Gull

This gull is very similar to the Herring Gull. It has a darker back and its legs are yellow rather than pink. Young gulls are mottled brown and look just like young herring gulls. It is fairly common in Leith and other areas of Edinburgh.

You can find out more about the lesser black backed gull on the RSPB website:


Juliet Wilson is a poet, reviewer and adult education tutor with an interest in making crafts from re-used materials. You can find out more about her work here and here. Photo credit: Bob Bryson