Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus)

Black-headed Gull

[order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Laridae | [latin] Larus ridibundus | [UK] Black-headed Gull | [FR] Mouette rieuse | [DE] Lachmowe | [ES] Gaviota Reidora | [NL] Kokmeeuw


Monotypic species

Physical charateristics

Frontal hood dark chocolate brown to dusky blackish, with blackish border. White eye crescents, neck white, underparts white. Back, upperwing coverts, secondaries and inner primaries grey, secondaries with white tips. edged and tipped black. Tail white. Straighter bill and legs dark red. Eye dark brown.

Listen to the sound of Black-headed Gull

[audio: Gull.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 86 cm wingspan max.: 99 cm
size min.: 35 cm size max.: 39 cm
incubation min.: 23 days incubation max.: 26 days
fledging min.: 33 days fledging max.: 26 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 3  


Eurasia : widespread


Breeds across middle latitudes of west Palearctic, from steppe and Mediterranean zones to boreal and fringe of subarctic, and from continental interior to oceanic coasts and islands. Mainly lowland or in lower uplands, up to c. 700 m in Britain and locally to 2000 m in FSU. Always near shallow calm water, fresh, brackish, or saline, and usually at margins of ponds, lakes, or slow-flowing rivers, beside lagoons, or on deltas, estuaries, or aquatic artefacts such as sewage farms, gravel- and clay-pits, ponds, canals, subsidence waters, or floodlands. Also uses dry sites near water, such as heather moors, sand-dunes, foreshores, and upper zones of salt-marshes, as well as stony islands and islets.


North Sea area: egg-laying from early April. Up to 2 weeks later in eastern and central Europe and in Mediterranean. In Iceland, egg-laying begins end of May and early June. Nest is built on ground, usually in low vegetation, sometimes on bare earth. Sometimes in vegetation growing in shallow water, rarely on buildings, or in low trees or bushes. The nest consists of a variable structure based on shallow scrape lined with pieces of vegetation, in wet sites, built up into substantial mound, up to 40-50 cm external diameter, 25-30 cm high, with cup 5 cm deep. Clutch size 2-3 (1-4). incubation lasts 23-26 days and the young fledge after about 35 days.

Feeding habits

Diet heavily based on aquatic and terrestrial insects, earthworms and marine invertebrates, and to lesser extent on fish.
Feeds by swimming and seizing objects from surface, or dipping head under surface. Along coast, by walking on mudflats and probing for shrimps and marine worms. Sometimes by foot-stirring and foot-paddling. Also follows fishing boats and ferries that churn up food items.


This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 10,000,000 km2. It has a large global population estimated to be 7,300,000-11,000,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Larus ridibundus is a widespread breeder across much of Europe, which is now thought
to hold >50% of its global breeding population. Its European breeding population is
very large (>1,500,000 pairs), and increased substantially between 1970-1990.
Although the species declined in north-central Europe?particularly in countries
bordering the Baltic Sea?during 1990-2000, and underwent a moderate decline
(>10%) overall, this decline is probably outweighed by the earlier increase.
This gull inhabits the major part of the temperate and boreal regions of Eurasia, from the Atlantic coast to Kamchatka. Since the beginning of the century it has considerably extended its distribution and increased its numbers. It has colonised Italy and Spain. The population of the European Union (12 Members States) is estimated at 900000 breeding pairs. During winter it is strongly augmented by birds from Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea region, the total European population being estimated at 1.9-2.2 millions of breeding pairs, Russia not included
Black-headed Gull status Least Concern


Mainly migratory to east and north of zone of winter freezing, dispersive or partially migratory elsewhere. European winter range extends from southern Iceland, Faeroes, southern Norway, western Baltic, Balkans, and southern Russia southwards; common winter visitor in Iberia and around Mediterranean. Others follow Atlantic coast to Senegal and Gambia, and (fewer) into Gulf of Guinea east to Nigeria. Common winter visitor to Niger inundation zone in Mali, Red Sea coasts, and wetlands and coasts of Middle East, including Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea.

Distribution map

Black-headed Gull distribution range map

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