Mediterranean gull

Ichthyaetus melanocephalus

Family: Laridae

Length: 36 – 40 cm
Wingspan: 984 – 105 cm
Weight: 220 – 380 g

Photo credit: Laurent Carrier


Appearance: small to medium-sized seabird with black head and neck, a light grey mantle, dark red beak and legs, and eyes bordered with white.

Distinguishing characteristics: resembles the Black-headed Gull, but has no black on the primaries.

Flight: agile flight with fairly quick wingbeats.

Sound: noisy species; distinctive ascending and descending cry, with a slightly sad tone.

Ecology and habitat

Nest: breeds on the ground in sparsely vegetated sites, thickets or reedbeds near water.

Diet: mainly insects in the summer; fish, worms, scraps, insects, offal and carrion in the winter. Feeds in large reedbeds, marshes, or on islands in lakes.

Behaviour at sea: rarely seen at sea or far from the coasts.

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

Distribution and movement

Breeding: breeds almost entirely in Europe, especially around the Black Sea and in central Turkey. Rapid expansion in Western Europe (after being restricted to the Black Sea, mostly Ukraine) in recent years.

Wintering: in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Atlantic coasts of northwestern Europe and northwest Africa.

Phenology: Laying: three eggs. Incubation: during 23-25 days. Chick-rearing. Fledging: after 35-45 days. Migration is in March-May and in August-September.


Global population estimate:  236,000-656,000 individuals.

Threats: loss of habitat, disturbance and tourism on coastal areas, illegal hunting, oil pollution and fishing practices.

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

Some key references

BirdLife International. 2021. Species factsheet: Larus melanocephalus.

Carboneras C., Aymí R., Cama A., Duponcheel C., Ferrer J., Flamant R., García S., Garzón J., Gutiérrez A., Olivé M., Poot, M. 2010. Mediterranean Gulls Larus melanocephalus wintering in Spain and Portugal: one population or several. Airo 20: 3-11.

Dies J. I., Dies B. 2004. The breeding biology of Mediterranean Gull at l’Albufera de Valencia (Western Mediterranean). Ardeola 51(1): 221-224.

Flamant R., Meininger P. L., Goutner V., Er, Karauz Er S., Rudenko, A. 2003. Monitoring of Mediterranean Gulls Larus melanocephalus by means of colour ringing programmes in the Black Sea and north-eastern Mediterranean regions. Bird Census News 16(2): 57-62.