Length: 48 – 57 cm
Wingspan: 125 – 138 cm
Weight: 500 – 800 g
Appearance: elegant slim gull with long legs and narrow wings. Adults: light grey body with a paler white head, grey-green legs, red bill, dark eyes.
Distinguishing characteristics: adults are easily distinguishable from other gulls but juveniles are not.
Flight: steady flight gliding for longer periods than other similar gulls.
Sound: typically gull-like.
Ecology and habitat
Nest: breeds on exposed rocky cliffs and on offshore islands or islets. Lays 2-3 eggs on a ground nest.
Diet: feeds primarily on fish; also aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, small birds, marine plants and discards from fisheries.
Behaviour at sea: coastal species, rarely occurring inland and generally not travelling far offshore.
* This map indicates coastal nesting sites in the Mediterranean and adjacent Seas.
Distribution and movement
Breeding: on Mediterranean coasts only. Main colonies at the Ebro Delta (NE Spain), Chafarinas Islands (off NE Morocco) and La Mata-Torrevieja saltpans (east Spain). Scattered colonies from Morocco and Algeria east to the Aegean Sea, south Turkey and Cyprus.
Recently, the Portuguese population of the Audouin’s Gull has increased and the country now hosts the biggest colony of these seabirds Ilha Deserta de Faro, in the Algarve, is the only place where these gulls breed in Portugal and is home to approximately 4200 pairs.
Wintering: disperse widely around the Mediterranean coast; almost all juveniles and some adults migrate past Gibraltar during July-October to winter on the North African coast, all the way down to Senegal. During their migration, thousands of birds stop over the Algarve. Some birds also winter in the Aegean Sea and in Turkey.
Phenology: arrival to breeding site: late February-mid April. Laying: mid April-early May; two-three eggs. Hatching: peak in late May. Incubation: during 28 days until hatching. Fledging: after 35-40 days, in July. Young independence: after 3-4 months.
Global population estimate: 43,000 – 44,000 mature individuals in Europe alone. Significant population decline in recent years (reported in Spain, France and Greece).
Threats: presence of predators (e.g. fox, badger), lack of suitable nesting places aside from some artificial sites (e.g. ports, saltpans), human disturbance, reduction of fishing discards, fisheries bycatch.
Protection level: Barcelona Convention : Annex II; Bern Convention : Annex II; Birds Directive : Annex I; IUCN Red List: Least Concern.
Some key references
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Larus audouinii. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 24/11/2020.
Christel I et al. (2012) Foraging movements of Audouin’s gull (Larus audouinii) in the Ebro Delta, NW Mediterranean: A preliminary satellitetracking study. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 96: 257-261.
Oro D & Martinez A (1994) Migration and dispersal of Audouin’s Gull Larus audouinii from the Ebro Delta colony. Ostrich 65: 225-230.