Where Do Seagulls Go in the Winter?

Herring Gull
© Lukas Pavlacik/Shutterstock.com

Written by Nixza Gonzalez

Published: December 17, 2022

Share on:


Did you know seagulls is actually an informal term? These popular and common birds are really just gulls. Seagulls live on all continents, even for a short time while breeding. These birds are fascinating and super smart, and they learn quickly. Seagulls have been known to stomp their feet on the ground to imitate rain, tricking earthworms into coming out.

Seagulls also mate for life. They are caring parents and take turns caring for their young. Through small openings in their bills, gulls can drink fresh and salt water. They are interesting birds that can withstand many things, including cold weather. So where do they go in winter? How do they survive the cold and harsh weather? Keep reading to find out.

Where Do Seagulls Go When It’s Cold?

seagull with fish in mouth

During winter, seagulls travel, getting away from the cold.


Seagulls are sometimes considered annoying and aggressive birds, especially along the coast and on beaches, but they are clever and true survivors. During winter, seagulls travel, getting away from the cold. All 54 species of gulls have unique migratory patterns. For instance, Franklin’s gulls migrate from Canada all the way to Argentina. Some species don’t migrate during winter, including the Belcher’s gull. Other seagulls, like the European Herring gull, choose to reside in their home but move inland during winter to seek warmth.

Something interesting about these birds is that they sometimes make two to three stops while migrating south. One example is the Black-backed gull. They typically live in Northern and Central Europe but travel to West Africa, the Mediterranean, Portugal, and Spain in September. Seagulls travel as far as they need to and roost in warm areas with a water source. However, they sometimes make their home in urban places, especially by lakes, rivers, and ponds.

Do Seagulls Come Back to the Same Place Every Year?

These migratory birds are easy to track. Seagulls typically return to the same nesting area in Spring. However, if their nest has been disturbed, they travel and find another place. Seagulls are very territorial. It’s easier for them to travel back to the same place. Seagulls are careful when choosing a nesting spot, which is why they return. The nest is typically safe and located next to a water source with abundant food.

Where Do Seagulls Go to Sleep at Night?

Seagulls are loud and have many calls and sounds they use to communicate. They are super quiet at night, and most people barely notice they are there! Some seagulls sleep near the water in large flocks. This is common in nursery flocks, which are large groups of young seagulls taken care of by a few adults before the young are ready for the breeding season. Other seagulls, those that live inland, get creative with where they sleep. They roost on rooftops, dumpsters, or sometimes backyards and public parks. While seagulls take naps during the day, they sleep for several hours starting at dusk or night. Seagulls sleep while crouching or standing on one leg with the other tucked into their bellies.

What Do Seagulls Eat During the Winter?

What Do Seagulls Eat
Seagulls eat fish, rodents, mollusks, and insects, among others.

Typically, a seagull’s diet consists of fish, rodents, reptiles, crustaceans, and more. These opportunistic birds aren’t picky eaters. Anyone who’s been to the beach on a busy day has likely witnessed these omnivorous birds stealing food from open bags and cups. During winter, their diet doesn’t change much since they move. However, birds that move inland focus on rodents, human garbage, and reptiles instead of fish. 

Some common foods seagulls eat are:

  • Codfish
  • Tuna
  • Crab
  • Smaller Birds
  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Nuts
  • Chips
  • Bread
  • Whale carcass
  • Insects

Seagulls are great hunters and typically catch their prey in the air. They also understand how to open food and keep themselves safe. For example, some people believe seagulls eat human food because they know it’s safe since it’s been touched by them. They also drop mollusks from in the air to crack their shells.

How Many Miles Can a Seagull Fly in a Day?

Seagulls are fast birds that travel a lot. They typically fly 100 miles a day between their feeding and nesting sites. This number increases during late fall and winter as some seagull species fly south for warmth. They are also fast and capable of reaching speeds up to 28 mph. Fun fact, the fastest seagull in the world is a black-backed gull that traveled 520 miles in 7 days. This seagull flew from the Channel Islands to Spain. Flying that much in a short amount of time is rare, so it’s likely the black-backed gull has found a home with lots of food.

Up Next:

Share this post on:
About the Author

Nixza Gonzalez is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics like travel, geography, plants, and marine animals. She has over six years of experience as a content writer and holds an Associate of Arts Degree. A resident of Florida, Nixza loves spending time outdoors exploring state parks and tending to her container garden.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.