Brown-headed gull

   ›      ›   Brown-headed gull - Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus

The brown-headed gull (Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus) belongs to the family of gulls, terns and skimmers, Laridae.

The brown-headed gull species are distributed in Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, China, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. These gull species are highly migratory. These gulls are monotypic species.

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

Brown-headed gull - Overview

  • Scientific name: Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus
  • Species author: (Jerdon, 1840)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Larus brunnicephalus Jerdon, 1840
  • Family: Laridae › Charadriiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Brown-headed gull, Chinese: 棕头鸥, French: Mouette du Tibet, German: Braunkopfmöwe, Spanish: Gaviota centroasiática, Russian: Буроголовая чайка, Japanese: チャガシラカモメ, Tamil: Pazhuppu Thalai Kadal Kakkai, Indonesian: Burung Camar Kepala-coklat
  • Other names: Indian Black-headed Gull
  • Distribution: Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan
  • Diet and feeding habits: fish, shrimp, insects, worms, offal, reptiles, rodents, plant material
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)
The brown-headed gull (Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus) is closely related to black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) and Bonaparte's gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia).

Appearance, physical description and identification

The brown-headed gull (Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus) is a small gull, measuring 40 to 45 cm in length and weighing 450 to 700 grams.

The adult brown-headed gull has brown hood in summer. These birds take two years to reach maturity. The first year birds have a less homogeneous brown hood in the summer. The brown head feathers are lost in winter, leaving a few dark patches.

The first year gulls have a black terminal tail band and with more darker or brown areas on the wings. The upperparts are pale gray and the underparts are white. The primary feathers have black tips. There are conspicuous white "mirrors" on the wings.

The adults have red bills and red feet. The bill and feet are very dark red in breeding birds. There are crescent moon-shaped white patches on the upper and lower sides of eyes. The irises are white, which differentiate brown-headed gull from the black-headed gull, which has black irises.

The brown-headed gull call is a loud, raucous "keear" or "geek" sound.
Indian birds - Picture of Brown-headed gull - Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus
Birds of India - Image of Brown-headed gull (white iris) - Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus by 42sneha

Birds of India - Photo of Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus
Black-headed gull. Note the black iris color. Picture by Harvey Barrison

Indian birds - Image of Brown-headed gull - Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus
Birds of India - Photo of Brown-headed gull - Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus by Rushen

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The brown-headed gull species are distributed in India, China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

Vagrants brown-headed gulls have been observed in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Maldives, Israel, Iran and Afghanistan.

In India, these brown-headed gull species are distributed in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Meghalaya, Assam, Tripura, Mizoram, Jharkhand, Odisha, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of brown-headed gull species in China are Qinghai Hu (Koko Nor), Changtang plateau, Ayark Kol and alpine grassland. The IBA of the gull species in India are Krishnarajasagar Reservoir, Nalabana Bird Sanctuary (Chilika Lake) and Sulekere Lake.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of brown-headed gull species in Tajikistan are Zorkul Nature Reserve, Rangkul valley, Bulunkul lake, Yashilkul lake and Karakul lake. The IBA of these species in Thailand is Inner Gulf of Thailand.

Ecosystem and habitat

These brown-headed gull species do not normally occur in forest. These species occur in altitudes from 0 to 4500 meters.

The artificial ecosystems of these birds include flooded or ploughed agricultural fields and urban garbage dumps.

The natural ecosystems of these gull species are tropical and subtropical wet grasslands, margins of rivers and streams, intertidal marine marshes with emergent grasses, peatlands, marshes, swamps, bogs, floodplains, waterlogged mudflats, rivers, streams, creeks and brackish wetlands.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these brown-headed gull species is mostly fish. Shrimps, offal, insects, grubs, fish waste, worms, carrion, reptiles, rodents and plant material are their primary food.

These gull species are opportunistic scavengers, feeding from garbage dump and feeding invertebrates exposed during ploughing of fields.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these brown-headed gull species is from May to July in most of the breeding grounds. These birds are colonial breeders, colonies form from 50 pairs to several thousand pairs.

The breeding sites are selected in large reedbeds, marshes or on islands in the lakes. They nest on the ground. The typical clutch contains 2-3 eggs.

Migration and movement patterns

The brown-headed gull species are highly migratory birds.

In the month of May, these brown-headed gull species return to the breeding grounds in islands and surrounding marshes in large, cold, high altitude lakes of central Asia. The breeding grounds are spread over Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, India (Jammu and Kashmir) and China (west Xinjiang and west Tibet).

The brown-headed gull species migrate to the coast of Indian subcontinent, coast of southeast Asia and gangetic plains in India for wintering. The return trip to the breeding grounds takes place in March and April.

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the brown-headed gull (Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus) has not been quantified. The overall population trend of these gull species is considered to be stable. Throughout its range it is reported to be fairly common. The generation length is 11.5 years. Their distribution size is about 851,000

The brown-headed gull (Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus) does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable, either under the range size criterion, or under the population trend criterion or under the population size criterion. Degradation of wetland habitats 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 species and has listed it as of "Least Concern". The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for the brown-headed gull (Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus
Species:C. brunnicephalus
Binomial name:Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
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1.Image source: (cropped)
Image author: 42sneha | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
2.Image source: (cropped)
Image author: Harvey Barrison | License: CC BY-SA 2.0 as on 5/5/17
3.Image source: (cropped)
Image author: Rushen | License: CC BY-SA 2.0 as on 5/5/17
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