Black-headed gull

Chroicocephalus ridibundus

Family: Laridae

Length: 35 – 45 cm
Wingspan: 94 – 110 cm
Weight: 190 – 400 g

Photo credit: Hugo Foxonet


Appearance: white with pearl-grey wings with black tips, dark brown head (except in winter: white with a blackish patch behind the eye) with a orange-dark red bill and orange legs.

Distinguishing characteristics: black tips to the primary feathers and slighter bill than the Mediterranean gull.

Flight:  fast and active, but can glide gracefully in air currents.

Sound: very rich vocal repertoire, with a familiar « kree-ar » call.

Ecology and habitat

Nest: a simple depression or mound of plant in large reed beds or marshes, or on islands in lakes.

Diet: feeds on crabs, molluscs, eels, insects such as flying ants, earthworms and various detritus.

Behaviour at sea: dives to catch fish by following fishing boats; not a pelagic species and is rarely seen at sea far from coasts.

* This map indicates coastal nesting sites in the Mediterranean and adjacent Seas.

Distribution and movement

Breeding: across in much of Europe and Asia, and in coastal eastern Canada. 

Wintering: sedentary in the Mediterranean; mostly migratory otherwise.

Phenology: Laying end-April / early May; two to four eggs. Incubation: 22 – 26 days. Fledging: 32 – 35 days after hatching.


Global population estimate: European population estimated at 1,340,000 – 1,990,000 pairs

Threats: diseases (avian influenza , avian botulism), egg collecting, chemical pollutants.

Protection level: Barcelona Convention : Annex II; Bern Convention: Annex II; Birds Directive: Annex II; African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement; IUCN Red List: Least Concern.

Some key references

BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Larus ridibundus