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Black-headed gull

Black-headed gull

Chroicocephalus ridibundus

This is the most inland-travelling of the gulls; one you might find at landfill sites, rubbish tips and farmland, as well as coastal areas.

They are a sociable, noisy, squabbling gull that you’ll usually see in groups, gathering together when they’re resting or have found a plentiful food source. They’re often overlooked but they stand out as some of the most elegant and agile birds we know well.⠀

In summer they have a white head and a dark chocolate brown hood, not black as their name suggests. Their head only appears black from a distance. In winter they have a white head with smudges of black and a smudged black ear spot as shown in the picture, which some say make them look like they’re wearing headphones.

Their lifespan is 10 to 15 years, although the oldest ringed bird survived over 30 years.

Local spotlight

Black-headed gulls breed on coastal marshes to upland pools. Often numerous and widespread at other times from coasts to farmland, reservoirs, refuse tips, and along rivers through towns and rivers. There has been a decline recently of numbers in winter for reasons that may be linked to climate change.

Conservation status

Black-headed gulls are amber listed in the UK

They might not be listed in the Solent’s Special Protection Areas but they are important for the coastal ecosystem and form part of the waterbird assemblages for which these regions are protected.

Did you know?

Their laughing ‘kehaar’ call provides the second half of their scientific name – ridibundus – which translates as ‘laughing’ and also gave the author Richard Adams the name of the gull Kehaar in his Watership Down novel.