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Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) and Great Black-backed Gull (L. marinus) morphometric data from various eastern North American locations was collected to examine the sources of variation in body size within and among geographic regions. For Herring Gulls, significant differences in all commonly taken measurements at local and regional scales were found. However, most of the variation in measurements was due to sex differences and the natural variance seen within local populations. Herring Gulls breeding in the Arctic did not show any evidence of being morphologically different from other groups. A discriminant function derived from a Newfoundland, Canada, breeding population of Herring Gulls successfully assigned the sex of birds in Atlantic Canada and Nunavut, Canada, further emphasizing that most of the variation seen is between sexes and not among local or even regional populations. It also indicates that the evitable variation introduced by inter-individual differences in measurements was insufficient to compromise the utility of the discriminant function. The correct classification rate was lower for Great Lakes breeding Herring Gulls, indicating that these birds have different morphologies than those of populations in easterly regions. In contrast, few differences and no clear geographic patterns were found in measurements for Great Black-backed Gulls. These results were consistent with recent genetic information, suggesting an older west to east radiation of Herring Gulls across North America and a lack of isolation among Great Black-Backed Gull populations.


Available here by permission of the publisher, Waterbird Society. Originally published:

Robertson, G.J., Roul, S., Allard, K.A., Pekarik, C., Lavoie, R.A., Ronconi, R.A., Ellis, J., Perlut, N., Diamond, A. W. and N. Benjamin. 2016. Morphological Variation Among Herring Gulls (Larus argentatus) and Great Black-Backed Gulls (Larus marinus) in Eastern North America. Waterbirds 39(sp 1): 253-268. DOI:

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