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Black-headed gull
© © Zsuzsanna Bird

Black-Headed Gull

Larus ridibundus

The black-headed gull is a familiar sight on farmland, wetland and coastal habitats throughout Britain.

© © Rob Miller

It nests on saltmarshes and islands in flooded gravel pits and reservoirs and sometimes forms very large, noisy colonies. There are about 140,000 breeding pairs in Britain and about 1.7 million wintering birds each year.

How to Identify

The commonest small gull, the black-headed gull actually has a chocolate-brown head during the summer which turns white for the rest of the year. It is silvery-grey above and white below with red legs, a red bill and black wingtips.

Where to Find


How People Can Help

Although black-headed gulls are relatively common birds and can be spotted in towns and cities, the non-breeding population in the UK is in decline. To ensure that we keep populations of black-headed gulls and other seabirds healthy, it is important that our marine environment is managed properly. The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of ‘Living Seas’ where marine wildlife thrives. This work has recently had a massive boost with the passing of the Marine Bill, promising sustainable development of the UK’s marine environment. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust.

Did you know?

The Latin name of the black-headed gull, Larus ridibundus, means ‘laughing gull’, and comes from its laughing, ‘ke-ke-ke’ and ‘kverarrr’ calls. However, there is a laughing gull, Larus atricilla, which lives in North America; it looks quite similar to the black-headed gull, but has a black head instead of a brown one.

Key Facts

  • Length: 35-38cm
  • Wingspan: 1m
  • Weight: 250-330g
  • Average Lifespan: 11 years


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