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Black Headed Gull: Introduction to a Versatile Avian Species

This article was written by EB React on 28/07/2023

Physical Characteristics

Black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)

Black-head gulls

A medium-sized seabird, the species is part of the Laridae family, which notably includes the different varieties of seagulls and gulls. This family includes 23 genera and 102 distinct species. This species is present almost everywhere in Europe, and over part of Asia. It is sedentary in many Mediterranean countries.


The bird has a white-grey plumage with a dark chocolate-brown hood in summer that encompasses the head, chin, upper throat, this hood disappears in winter. The neck is totally white. The upperparts of the bird like the back and upper coverts are grey. The wingtips, tail and torso are snow white. The eyes of black-headed gulls are brown to dark brown in color, surrounded by two small white crescents. The beak, like the animal's legs and fingers, is bright red.


Size: 37 to 43 cm
Wingspan: 94 to 110 cm
Weight: between 195 and 235 g
Longevity: 30 years

Nesting and reproduction

Nesting period: April to July
Number of broods: 1
Number of eggs: 3 x 15 mm eggs, light green in color with black spots.
Brood length: 22 to 26 days
1st flight: 32-35 days


This species live mainly by the sea, this species is found on almost the entire European continent. Some birds are sedentary, while others decide to migrate. In winter, it is found in an area between the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, these seagulls are also found on the coasts of North Africa. As this species grows rapidly, it has already spread to Iceland and as far as Greenland, currently there are even specimens in North America.


This bird has a very varied diet, feeding mainly on aquatic, terrestrial and fish insects. In times of scarcity, it does not hesitate to eat seeds and berries. Known for chasing fishing boats, the seagull pilfers any debris left by fishermen. In need, our bird even seeks its food inland, alongside dumpsters and rubbish dumps. It is also famous for stealing food from other species, they have a well-honed technique, they constantly harass other birds which inevitably end up letting go.


The seagull is a particularly territorial bird, traits common to many species of seabirds. The territory it fiercely defends depends essentially on the area, the number of pairs established in the colony, this territorial battle obviously generates many neighborhood disputes. It is precisely during these fights that seagulls try to impress their opponents by adopting certain postures, the black hood has an aggressive and dissuasive effect, while showing the clear neck while lowering the head is clearly a sign of submission.


Gulls nest in colonies, usually after vegetation, sandy or rocky areas, this colony can include more than 1,000 pairs. This concentration of birds requires certain precautions to be taken when building the nest. The male will establish his nest about 2 to 5 meters apart with the others. Fairly large nest built on the ground or in low, damp vegetation, the bird scratches the ground until a concave depression is obtained, then it uses dry plants to line the interior.

The female lays an average of 2 to 3 olive-brown speckled brown eggs once a year. It is towards the end of April at the beginning of May that the laying takes place. The incubation lasts about 22 to 26 days, during which the female will constantly watch over her future offspring, the male will take care of the food. After their birth, the juveniles remain nestled in the family nest for about a week. They really leave the nest and will take their first flights around the age of 32 to 35 days.

Migration Patterns

Migration is a remarkable phenomenon observed in various bird species, and the black-head gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) is no exception. These elegant birds embark on impressive journeys, covering vast distances in search of favorable conditions for breeding, feeding, and survival. In this article, we will delve into the fascinating migration patterns of black-headed gulls and explore the factors that influence their migratory behavior. 

1- Migration Routes and Timing:

Gulls undertake long-distance migrations, traveling between their breeding and wintering grounds. They breed in colonies across Europe and parts of Asia, particularly in wetland habitats. As autumn approaches, they start their migration southwards to seek milder climates and abundant food sources. These gulls form large flocks and follow specific routes that take them across various countries and regions. 
The exact migration routes may vary depending on the population and individual birds, but some common pathways have been observed. Many black-headed gulls from Europe migrate to the Mediterranean region, including countries like Spain, Italy, and Greece. Others may fly further south, reaching North Africa or even venturing as far as the Middle East. These journeys can span thousands of kilometers and often involve stopovers at suitable feeding and resting sites along the way.

2- Factors Influencing Migration:

Several factors influence the migration patterns of black-headed gulls. One key factor is the availability of food. As winter approaches, the decrease in food resources in their breeding areas prompts the gulls to seek new foraging grounds with ample sustenance. Wetlands, estuaries, and coastal areas are particularly favored as they offer a diverse range of prey, including fish, insects, and small invertebrates. 

3- Navigation and Orientation:

The ability of black-headed gulls to navigate during migration is awe-inspiring. They possess a remarkable sense of direction and orientation, relying on various cues to guide them. Studies suggest that these birds utilize a combination of celestial cues, such as the position of the sun and stars, as well as the Earth's magnetic field to navigate accurately. 

Conservation Status and Threats

The conservation status of the Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) is a subject of concern for environmentalists and bird enthusiasts worldwide. These charming birds, with their striking black heads during the breeding season, face several threats that impact their populations. 
One of the primary threats to Black-headed Gulls is habitat loss. As wetlands and marshes, which serve as their breeding grounds, are drained or developed for agriculture and urbanization, these birds lose crucial nesting sites. Pollution poses another significant challenge. Black-headed Gulls often forage near human settlements, exposing them to contaminants from industrial and agricultural runoff, which can harm their health. 
Furthermore, climate change is affecting the availability of prey species, leading to food scarcity for these gulls. This, coupled with increased predation and competition, poses a direct threat to their survival. 
Conservation efforts are essential to protect these birds. Wetland restoration projects, pollution control measures, and habitat preservation initiatives can help mitigate the threats. Raising awareness about the importance of these gulls in ecosystems and as indicators of environmental health is crucial for their long-term conservation. By addressing these issues collectively, we can work towards securing the future of the Black-headed Gull.


EB React / Editor

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