Larus ridibundus - Common black-headed gull:

Click Photo for full-page view Black-headed gulls flying. Click here for full page view with caption

Summary Information
Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Aves / Ciconiiformes / Laridae / Larus / Species

This section is currently predominantly used in Wildpro to link different data types and demonstrate inter-relationships. Although it identifies that taxonomic interrelationships of species (see "header") it does not currently contain detailed information on the bird species itself. As WILDPro is developed, we will gradually convert these pages into full Species pages.

The taxonomy of birds is still under review and the A World Checklist of Birds by Burt L. Monroe, Jr and Charles G. Sibley (B89) has been chosen as the primary reference. The taxonomic structure will be amended when new editions or complete references are identified by the scientific world as the recognized primary references for taxonomy.

Alternative Names
  • Black-headed gull (B163)
Distribution Northern Palearctic; winters to Africa, United States. (B89)
  • Europe: Migratory in far north to escape ice. (B164)
  • Britain: Peaks of over 200,000 in winter. (B45)
  • London: In the London Area, common both as a winter visitor and a passage migrant. Occasionally breeds here, with a colony at Staines Reservoir. Reaches numbers of e.g. 10,000 at Rainham Marsh, and "vast hordes" roost on the Thames at night during the winter. (J322.65.w1)
Habitat Breeding - "A wide variety of marshes, lakes and rivers; inland and coastal." (B163); large reedbeds and marshy areas, on ponds near coasts. (B164)
Further Information Appearance: 
  • Length: 45-39 cm (B164)
  • Wingspan: 86-99 cm (B164)
  • Bill: Red, in winter duller, with black tip. In juvenile, yellowish-flesh colour. (B163, B164)
  • Eyes: Dark, with white eye ring. (B164)
  • Feet and legs: dark red, or red-brown in winter. In juvenile, yellowish-flesh colour. (B164)
  • Plumage: (B164)
  • Adult in summer: 
    • Head dark chocolate hood (appears black), neck white. Dorsal pale silver grey: tail white, wings pale silver grey with broad leading edge (primaries and primary coverts) and black tips to outer primaries. Ventral white, wing pale grey with primaries dark grey except leading primaries white and tips of primaries black. (B17, B164)
  • Adult in winter:
    • Similar to summer except head white with grey ear spot/nape and smudge over eye. (B17, B164)
  • Juvenile: Ginger-brown upperparts and head, wings brown, tail has a black terminal band edges with white. First winter body and head become more like adult, but wings retain juvenile colours. (B17, B164)
  • food - mainly insects and aquatic inverts; sometimes earthworms
  • feeding behaviour - "on water uses a variety of feeding methods, including plunging, dipping to water surface from flight, swimming on surface and up-ending, walks across fields, shallow water, and mud picking up prey." (B163).
  • Often feeds on ploughed fields and in towns. (B164)


  • location and structure - ground nesting; scrape
  • nest building - male and female
  • breeding structure - monogamous. (B163) Colonial. (B164)


  • markings - Patterned
  • number of eggs - 2-3 (1-4)
  • broods - 1 brood
  • incubation - by male and female; 23-26 days


  • development - semi precocial, stays in nest, fed by parents
  • parental caring for young - by male and female
  • fledging - 35? days

(B163, B164)

Organisations (UK Contacts):

Electronic Library (further reading):

General Legislation:

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Individual techniques:

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