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MTM – The Black-headed Gull , Chroicocephalus ridibundus

The Black-headed Gull is Britain’s smallest species of Common Gull. They are the most common inland gull and can be seen all year round in towns , parks and open countryside , particularly in northern England, Scotland and Wales. Large colonies are found along the south and east coasts of England. Black-headed Gulls are sociable and noisy birds, gathering into large groups where there is food.

GULL FACTS , In the 19th century black-headed gulls were quite rare and were hardly ever seen inland. Now, they are the most common inland gull species found throughout the country including central London.

During the winter months our largely resident breeding population is joined by large numbers of Black-headed Gulls arriving from breeding areas elsewhere in Europe. Birds from the Low Countries, the Baltic States and Russia are all known to visit. It has been estimated that as many as two-thirds of the birds wintering here may originate from overseas.

Adult black-headed gulls in breeding season have a dark chocolate-brown head with a white neck. The upperparts are grey and the underparts are white. Black-headed gulls’ eyes are dark brown with two white crescents. They have deep red bills, legs and feet. Out of breeding season, black-headed gulls have white heads with black spots on the ear coverts and a black tip on their bills. Both adult male and female black-headed gulls look similar. Juveniles have brown markings on the upperparts and a black band on the tail.

Black-headed gulls nest in colonies on cliffs, the ground or in buildings. They build their nests, which are usually a scrape in the ground or sometimes a pile of dead plant material, close together, sometimes even touching. Black-headed gulls lay 2-6 eggs which are smooth and glossy and green-blue colour with dark blotches. Both parents incubate the eggs which lasts 22-26 days. The chicks are precocial and are fed by both adults. They stay near the nest site till fledging which occurs about 35 days after hatching.

GULL FACTS , The scientific name of this bird means “laughing gull”.

Like most Gulls , life expectancy for the Black-headed Gull is good with an average life span of around 15 years . One ringed individual was at least 32.9 years of age the last time it was re-identified 

Black-headed gulls feed on insects, fish, grains and berries. They will also eat discarded food inland and will steal food from other gulls by harassing them.

Up until the late 1940s, commercial exploitation of Black-headed Gull breeding colonies was a common occurrence, which saw the collection of eggs and the taking of birds for meat. This was a widespread, large industry responsible for the loss of nearly 300,000 eggs a year.

Wild birds including the Black-headed Gull and their nests are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 in England, Scotland and Wales, which states that it is an offence to intentionally (or recklessly in Scotland) kill, injure or take any wild bird, or to take, damage or destroy (or otherwise interfere with in Scotland) its nest, eggs or young.

Fact File

  • Length 36 – 43 cm
  • Wingspan 95 – 110cm
  • Weight. 190 – 325g
  • Lifespan 15 years
  • Breading pairs. 140,000 pairs


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