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Black-headed Gull

Black-headed Gull Black-headed Gull Both Sexes
White with silver-grey upperparts. In the summer, chocolate-brown head.
Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.
Larus ridibundus
Length: 34-37 cm  (14")
Wing Span: 100-110 cm  (40-44")
Weight: 200-400 g  (7-14 oz)  
Breeding Pairs: 150 000
Present: All Year
Status: Amber

Description

The Black-headed Gull is a medium-sized gull and our commonest inland gull.

The range of plumages that they have depends on their age and time of year, as it does for most gulls, and so they are not the easiest birds to identify.

All year round the adult Black-headed Gull has silver grey upperparts and white underparts, and dark red bill and legs. The wings have black wing-tips and a white edge along the forewing (which separates it from the Common Gull).

In the summer, the adult has a dark chocolate brown head (but not nape and neck), but in the winter it has only a small black smudge to the rear of each eye.

Juveniles have ginger-brown mantle, shoulders, and wing feathers, but over the space of two years become more like the adults.

The scarcer Mediterranean Gull is very similar in appearance, but is a paler grey, lacks the black wing tips, has blood-red bill and legs and a truly black head that extends from the nape into the neck.

Voice

Choose from Quicktime and mp3. Call
  Quicktime mp3

They have variety of calls, one of the more common being a harsh laugh.

Feeding

They will feed on insects, worms, small fish, carrion and scraps, scavenge on household and industrial waste, and steal food from other birds.

Nesting

They nest in colonies on cliffs, the ground, or on buildings. The nest is usually a scrape in the ground or a pile of dead plant material.

The light greenish-blue eggs have dark blotches on them and are smooth and glossy. They are about 52 mm by 37 mm in size. Both birds share the duty of incubating the eggs and feeding the precocial nestlings.

Breeding Data
Breeding Starts Number of Clutches Number of Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
mid-April 1 2-6 21-27 30-42

Movements

The birds leave their colonies in July when the breeding season is over, returning in March the following year. Most UK birds are resident, but may fly great distances within the British Isles. The winter population includes many Icelandic, Scandinavian and northern European birds.

In the winter, they often form large flocks, sometimes with other gull species: roosting on lakes and reservoirs at night, feeding on farmland, fields and landfill sites in the daytime, and flying in large formations between the two.

Conservation

The Black-headed Gull is an extremely successful species, adapting to man-made change to its environment very well. The species has to be controlled in some areas as they harass and predate higher risk species. Nonetheless, there numbers have declined sharply in recent years and so they are now amber list species of conservation concern.

My Garden

We often see Black-headed Gulls flying overhead, circling on thermals, or flying in search of them, but none have ever landed in the garden.


Last revision: 21 Feb 2015
Copyright © David Gains 1999-2017.
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