(Temminck, 1820, coast of Adriatic Sea)
The Mediterranean gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus) is a small gull which breeds almost entirely in the Western Palearctic, mainly in the south east, especially around the Black Sea, and in central Turkey. There are colonies elsewhere in southern Europe, and this species has undergone a dramatic range expansion in recent decades. Birders often abbreviate its name to "Med gull". As is the case with many gulls, it has traditionally been placed in the genus Larus.
The Mediterranean gull is slightly larger and bulkier than the black-headed gull with a heavier bill and longer, darker legs. The breeding plumage adult is a distinctive white gull, with a very pale grey mantle and wings with white primary feathers without black tips. The black hood extends down the nape and shows a distinct white eye crescents. The blunt tipped, parallel sided, dark red bill has a black subterminal band. The non breeding adult is similar but the hood is reduced to an extensive dusky "bandit" mask through the eye. This bird takes two years to reach maturity. First year birds have a black terminal tail band and more black areas in the upperwings, but have pale underwings.
Formerly restricted to the Black Sea and the eastern Mediterranean this species has now expanded over most of Europe as far as the Great Britain and Ireland, with 37 sites: 543–592 pairs in the United Kingdom in 2008. In Ireland breeding has been recorded in at least four counties. Breeding has also occurred in Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and the Balkans.
This gull breeds in colonies in large reedbeds or marshes, or on islands in lakes; where its population is small, it nests in black-headed gull colonies. Like most gulls, it is highly gregarious in winter, both when feeding or in evening roosts. It is not a pelagic species, and is rarely seen at sea far from coasts.
The Mediterranean gull's feeding habits are much an opportunistic omnivore, eating fish, worms, scraps, insects, offal and carrion.
This is a noisy species, especially at colonies, with a nasal "yeah" call.
The Mediterranean gull is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
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- BirdLife International (2004). Larus melanocephalus. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 6 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
- Pons J.M., Hassanin, A., and Crochet P.A.(2005). Phylogenetic relationships within the Laridae (Charadriiformes: Aves) inferred from mitochondrial markers. Molecular phylogenetics and evolution 37(3):686–699
- Beaman, M. & Madge, S (1998) The Handbook of Bird Identification, Christopher Helm
- Peterson, R., Mountfort, G. and Hollom, P.A.S. 1967. A Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe. Collins