Black-headed gull

   ›      ›   Black-headed gull - Chroicocephalus ridibundus

The black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) is a small gull belonging to the family Laridae.

The black-headed gull species are distributed in Europe, central Asia, Middle East, Africa, Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia and eastern coast of Canada. These gull species were previously placed in the genus Larus. These gulls are monotypic species.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Black-headed 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 black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) is a small gull, measuring 35 to 45 cm in length and weighing 200 to 320 grams. The wingspan is 95 to 110 cm.

The adult breeding black-headed gull has a dark chocolate brown frontal hood. The upperparts are pale gray. The throat, breast and the underparts are white. The leading edge of the outer upperwing is white. The primary wing feathers have black tips.

In winter, the hood of black-headed gull is lost leaving just two dark spots on ear coverts. Juveniles have brown patches over the body. The bill and the legs are dark red in breeders and pale red in non-breeding birds.

The black irises differentiate them from the pale yellow irises of brown headed gull. The black-headed gull call is a melodious "kree-ar..kree-ar" sound.
Indian birds - Picture of Black-headed gull - Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Birds of India - Image of Black-headed gull - Chroicocephalus ridibundus by NoRud

Birds of India - Photo of Black-headed gull - Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Indian birds - Picture of Black-headed gull - Chroicocephalus ridibundus by Bartosz MORĄG

Indian birds - Image of Black-headed gull - Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Birds of India - Photo of Black-headed gull - Chroicocephalus ridibundus by Bengt Nyman

Origin, geographical range and distribution

These black-headed gull species are distributed in Europe, central Asia, Middle East, Africa, Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia and eastern coast of Canada.

In India, wintering populations of the black-headed gull occur in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Sikkim, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of the black-headed gull in Canada are, Île a Calculot, Quoddy Region, Quidi Vidi Lake, Lagune du Havre aux Basques et plage de l'Ouest and Île Nue de Mingan.

Some of the IBA of these species in China are Xayar forest and wetland, Oasis, Desert and Wetland at Mosuowan, Aksu River basin, Lower reaches of Tarim River, Bayanbulak and Kaidu River Valley, Ebi Nur and Kuytun River and Desert and wetland from Northern Urumqi to Dabancheng.

Some of the IBA of these gull species in Russia are Utrish Reserve and adjacent coastal waters, Ptich'ya magistral' area, Berezoviye islands of Vyborg Bay, Upper streams of Ob' river, Lake Tarutino, Gor'koye lake near Novotroitskoye village and Kharchinskoye lake.

Ecosystem and habitat

These black-headed gull species do not normally occur in forests. These species occur in altitudes from 0 to 1000 meters. The artificial ecosystems of these gull species include ploughed fields, flooded agricultural lands and urban garbage dumps.

The natural ecosystems of these black-headed gull species include flooded grasslands, coastal sand dunes, rocky, sandy or shingly shoreline, intertidal salt marshes, estuaries, tidal pools, shallow seas with macroalgal growth, freshwater marshes, lakes, rivers and creeks.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of these black-headed gull species is mostly aquatic insects. Terrestrial and aquatic insects, earthworms, molluscs, crustaceans, marine worms, fish, grains, scraps and carrion are their primary food. They seem to feed on invertebrates in ploughed fields with relish.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these black-headed gull species is during April and May in much of their northern breeding range. These species take two years for reaching maturity. They breed in calm, shallow wetland habitats.

They form breeding colonies on the margins of inland natural waterbodies, lagoons, coastal dunes and offshore islands, man made ponds and reservoirs, marshes and flooded plains.

The nest of the black-headed gull species is shallow construction with vegetation, placed on floating mat of weeds, hummock, grassy or sandy ground. The neighboring nest may be just a meter away. The typical clutch may contain 2 or 3 mottled pale buff colored eggs.

Migration and movement patterns

The black-headed gull species are mostly migratory birds. The black-headed gull species breed in central Asia and much of Europe.

These northern populations migrate south for wintering in coastal habitats, tidal inshore waters and riverine habitats. They roost in large flocks in wintering habitat and return to breeding colonies in February.

These gulls migrate to western Europe, western Africa, Mediterranean areas, Red sea areas, Persian Gulf areas, west coast of India, Sri Lanka, Himalayan foothills, southeast Asian coast, eastern China, South Korea and Japan.

Some of these gull populations in mild weather areas in southern and eastern Europe as well as east coast of North America are resident.

Post breeding, the juveniles may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding within their range.

Black-headed gull - Overview

  • Scientific name: Chroicocephalus ridibundus
  • Species author: (Linnaeus, 1766)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Larus ridibundus Linnaeus, 1766
  • Family: Laridae › Charadriiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Black-headed gull, Chinese: 红嘴鸥, French: Mouette rieuse, German: Lachmöwe, Spanish: Gaviota reidora, Russian: Обыкновенная чайка, Japanese: ユリカモメ, Malay: Burung Camar Kepala Hitam
  • Other names: Common Black-headed Gull, Northern Black-headed Gull
  • Distribution: most of Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa, India, southeast Asia
  • Diet and feeding habits: aquatic and terrestrial insects, earthworms, molluscs, crustaceans, marine worms, fish, grains, rodents
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)
The black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) is closely related to brown-headed gull (Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus), Bonaparte's gull (Chroicocephalus philadelphia) and slender-billed gull (Chroicocephalus genei).

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) is estimated to number between 4,800,000 to 8,900,000 individual birds. The overall population trend of these species is unknown. Throughout its range it is reported to be common. The generation length is 9.6 years. Its distribution size is about 44,500,000

The black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) 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. Hunting for food and sport, avian influenza and avian botulism 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 of "Least Concern". The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for the black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Species:C. ridibundus
Binomial name:Chroicocephalus ridibundus
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
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1.Image source:,_Lachm%C3%B6ve(Chroicocephalus_ridibundus).JPG (cropped)
Image author: NoRud | License: CC-BY-SA-4.0
2.Image source:
Image author: Bartosz MORĄG | License: CC-BY-SA-3.0
3.Image source:
Image author: Bengt Nyman | License: CC-BY-2.0 as on 6/5/17
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