Black-headed gull

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Black-headed gull
Chroicocephalus ridibundus (summer).jpg
Adult summer plumage
Annecy's Lake - 20111229 - Larus ridibundus 01.JPG
Adult winter plumage
Colony sounds, Suffolk, England
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Family: Laridae
Genus: Chroicocephalus
Species: C. ridibundus
Binomial name
Chroicocephalus ridibundus
(Linnaeus, 1766)
Black-Headed Gull.png
Range of C. ridibundus      Year-Round Range     Summer Range     Winter Range

Larus ridibundus

The black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) is a small gull that breeds in much of Europe and Asia, and also in coastal eastern Canada. Most of the population is migratory and winters further south, but some birds reside in the milder westernmost areas of Europe. Some black-headed gulls also spend the winter in northeastern North America, where it was formerly known as the common black-headed gull. As is the case with many gulls, it was previously placed in the genus Larus.

The genus name Chroicocephalus is from Ancient Greek khroizo, "to colour", and kephale, "head". The specific ridibundus is Latin for "laughing", from ridere "to laugh".[2]


This gull is 38–44 cm (15–17 in) long with a 94–105 cm (37–41 in) wingspan. In flight, the white leading edge to the wing is a good field mark. The summer adult has a chocolate-brown head (not black, although does look black from a distance), pale grey body, black tips to the primary wing feathers, and red bill and legs. The hood is lost in winter, leaving just 2 dark spots. Immature birds have a mottled pattern of brown spots over most of the body.[3] It breeds in colonies in large reed beds or marshes, or on islands in lakes, nesting on the ground. 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 black-headed gull is a bold and opportunistic feeder. It eats insects, fish, seeds, worms, scraps, and carrion in towns, or invertebrates in ploughed fields with equal relish. It is a noisy species, especially in colonies, with a familiar "kree-ar" call. Its scientific name means laughing gull.

This species takes two years to reach maturity. First-year birds have a black terminal tail band, more dark areas in the wings, and, in summer, a less fully developed dark hood. Like most gulls, black-headed gulls are long-lived birds, with a maximum age of at least 32.9 years recorded in the wild, in addition to an anecdote now believed of dubious authenticity regarding a 63-year-old bird.[4]


To be found over much of Europe, except Spain, Italy and Greece.[3] It is also found in Japan and E China.[5] It is an occasional visitor to the east coast of North America.


Eggs, Collection Museum Wiesbaden, Germany

The eggs of the black-headed gull are considered a delicacy by some in the UK and are eaten hard boiled.[6][7]



  1. ^ Butchart, S.; Symes, A. (2012). "Larus ridibundus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2012: e.T22694420A38851158. Retrieved 29 April 2016. 
  2. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 104, 171. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4. 
  3. ^ a b Peterson, R., Mountfort, G. and Hollom, P.A.D.1967. A Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe. Collins
  4. ^ "Longevity, ageing, and life history of Chroicocephalus ridibundus". The Animal Ageing and Longevity Database. Retrieved 27 September 2015. 
  5. ^ Attenborough, D. 1998. The Life of Birds. BBC ISBN 0563-38792-0
  6. ^ Copping, Jasper (28 March 2009). "Top restaurants face shortage of seagull eggs". The Daily Telegraph. London. 
  7. ^ "Conservation (Natural Habitats&c" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-04-14. 

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