White-eyed gull

   ›      ›   White-eyed gull - Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus

The white-eyed gull (Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus) belongs to the family of gulls, Laridae.

These gull species are distributed in countries bordering the Red Sea. Vagrant populations of these white-eyed gulls are observed in Maldives, India, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Turkey and Greece. These gulls are monotypic species.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of White-eyed Gull Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Appearance, physical description and identification

The white-eyed gull (Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus) is a small gull, measuring 40 to 45 cm in length and weighing 270 to 420 grams. The wingspan is 110 to 120 cm.

The upperparts, upper wings and underwings are dark gray. The breast is pale gray. The belly, vent region and undertail are whitish. The tail is blackish gray with pale gray tip. The bill is long and slender. In white-eyed gull juveniles the bill is black and in adults it is red with black tip. The legs are yellow.

In breeding white-eyed gull adults, there is a black hood extending down to throat. There is a whitish band on either side of the neck below the hood. In non breeding adults the hood is flecked with small whitish spots. The juveniles have brownish-grayish plumage. Their call is a distinctive harsh "kioow..kioow" sound.
Indian birds - Picture of White-eyed gull - Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus
Birds of India - Image of White-eyed gull - Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus

Birds of India - Photo of White-eyed gull - Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus
Indian birds - Picture of White-eyed gull - Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus
Indian birds - Image of White-eyed gull - Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus
Birds of India - Photo of White-eyed gull - Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The white-eyed gull species are distributed in Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Yemen and Kenya. Vagrant populations are found in Maldives, India, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Turkey and Greece.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of white-eyed gull species in Egypt are Ain Sukhna, Zabargad island, Gebel El Zeit, Wadi Gimal island, Hurghada archipelago, Tiran island, Qulân islands, Suez, Ras Mohammed National Park, Siyal islands and Rawabel islands.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of white-eyed gull species in Yemen are Jaza'ir al-Hanish, Islands north of Al-Hudaydah, Al-Fazzah, Al-Mukha - Al-Khawkhah, Bahr Ibn Abbas - Ra's Isa and Bab al-Mandab - Mawza. The IBA in Sudan are Mukawwar island and Dunganab bay.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of white-eyed gull species in Saudi Arabia are Shuqaiq mangrove, Al-Wajh Bank, Madinat Yanbu al-Sinaiyah, Farasan Islands, Jizan Bay and Jiddah south corniche and port. The IBA in Somalia are Jasiira Ceebaad and Jasiira Sacaada Diin.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of white-eyed gull species in Israel are Southern Arava valley and Elat mountains. The IBA in Eritrea are Massawa coast, Dehalak Archipelago and offshore islands.

Ecosystem and habitat

These white-eyed gull species do not normally occur in forest. These species occur in altitudes from 0 to 100 meters. These white-eyed gull species inhabit natural marine ecosystems.

The white-eyed gull marine ecosystems include rocky offshore islands, rocky shoreline, sandy shoreline, sand bars, sandy beaches, marine intertidal pools, shallow seas with submerged growth of macroalgae like seagrass and kelp and subtidal rocks and rocky reefs.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these white-eyed gulls is mostly fish. Crabs, shrimps, molluscs, fish, annelids and fruits are their primary food. They plunge dive and catch their prey. They are known to scavenge and eat offal and dead animals. They also predate on the eggs and nestlings of other small birds.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these white-eyed gull species is during June to August with peak laying in July. These gulls mostly breed in inshore islands with rocky and sandy beaches in the Gulf of Aden and islands at the mouth of the Gulf of Suez.

These gulls often nest in loose colonies on rocks, sandy beaches or exposed flats. The nests in sandy substrate have twigs, seaweed and debris as an outer ring. The nests on rocks are lined with plant matter. The typical clutch consists of two or three eggs.

Migration and movement patterns

The white-eyed gull is a non-migrant sedentary bird.

Post breeding, the white-eyed gull juveniles may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding within their range. In non-breeding season, there may be nomadic movements around the breeding range. Sometimes they form large foraging flocks.

White-eyed gull - Overview

  • Scientific name: Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus
  • Species author: (Temminck, 1825)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Larus leucophthalmus Temminck, 1825
  • Family: Laridae › Charadriiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: White-eyed gull, Chinese: 白眼鸥, French: Goéland à iris blanc, German: Weißaugenmöwe, Spanish: Gaviota ojiblanca, Russian: Белоглазая чайка, Japanese: メジロカモメ
  • Other names: Red Sea Black-headed Gull
  • Distribution: countries bordering Red Sea
  • Diet and feeding habits: fish, crabs, shrimp, mollusc
  • IUCN status listing: Near Threatened (NT)
The white-eyed gull (Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus) is closely related to sooty gull (Ichthyaetus hemprichii).

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the white-eyed gull (Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus) has not been quantified. The overall population trend of these species is considered to be stable. Throughout its range it is reported to be rare to common. The generation length is 11 years. Their distribution size is about 403,000 sq.km.

The white-eyed gull (Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus) is approaching the thresholds for being Vulnerable, under the range size criterion, under the population trend criterion and also under the population size criterion.

Risk from introduced predators on the breeding islands, oil exploration, oil-spills, egg and chick collection and hunting for food are the main threats that may endanger the survival of these gull species.

IUCN and CITES status

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the gull species and has listed it as "Near Threatened".

CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for the white-eyed gull (Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus
Species:I. leucophthalmus
Binomial name:Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus
IUCN status listing:
Near Threatened
Popular posts in Birds of India
Brown skua Common gull-billed tern
Asian green bee-eater Malabar grey hornbill
Arctic jaeger Spotted sandgrouse
Brown-backed needletail Stork-billed kingfisher
Blue-tailed bee-eater Malabar pied hornbill
Pallid scops owl Sykes's nightjar
Edible-nest swiftlet Indian roller
Common hoopoe Indian skimmer
Pomarine jaeger Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse
Jungle nightjar Glossy swiftlet
Malabar trogon Hill pigeon
Snow pigeon Grey-headed parakeet
Common hawk-cuckoo Sri Lanka bay owl
Ruddy-breasted crake Watercock
Common moorhen Common coot
Siberian crane Sarus crane
Common crane Black-necked crane
Collared scops owl European nightjar
Slaty-breasted rail Western water rail
Slaty-headed parakeet Large hawk-cuckoo
Oriental bay owl Indian scops owl
Speckled wood pigeon Blue-winged parakeet
Common cuckoo Alexandrine parakeet
Common kingfisher South polar skua
Pin-tailed sandgrouse Common wood pigeon
Himalayan swiftlet Ward's trogon
European roller Blyth's kingfisher
Ashy wood pigeon Red-breasted parakeet
Himalayan cuckoo Eurasian eagle-owl
Nicobar scops owl Andaman nightjar
1.Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:White-eyed_Gull_Nabq_protected_area_by_Hatem_Moushir_60.JPG
Image author: Hatem Moushir | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
2.Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:White-eyed_gull_at_the_Red_Sea_1.jpg
Image author: Alexander Vasenin | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
3.Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hurghada_Vogel_02.jpg
Image author: Olaf Tausch | License: CC BY 3.0
Current topic in Birds of India: White-eyed gull - Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus.

Contact State Tourism or travel agents for bird watching and wildlife tours.