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  ScienceZoologyBirdsOrder Charadriiformes
Black-Headed GullBlack-Headed Gull

Larus ridibundus


This relatively small gull is 13-15 inches long, has a 39-43 inch wingspan, and weighs 8-14 ounces.

Despite its name, this gull actually has a head that is more of a dark brown than black. Narrow white crescents almost meet behind the eyes but not in front, the back is gray, the outer wing feathers are white with black tips and blackish undersides, the tail is white, and the bill and legs are dark red. Outside of the breeding season, it has a white head, with a dark spot behind each eye, dark smudges on top of the head and above the eyes, gray back, white underparts, and bright red bill and legs.

Males are slightly larger than females, but they are otherwise similar in appearance. Juveniles have much brown on the head, neck, and back, a dark bar across each wing, and black tail tip.

Distribution and Habitat

The black-headed gull breeds across most of Eurasia, from southern Greenland to northeastern China. It can be found near lakes, rivers, bogs, moors, grasslands, swamps, and coastal marshes. It winters from the southern part of its breeding range southward to Africa and southern Asia, along seacoasts, estuaries, and bays. It is also an occasional visitor to the northern Atlantic Coast of North America, west to the Great Lakes.


Black-headed gulls feed on insects, worms, fish, mice, garbage, and some seeds and berries. They forage while walking or swimming, and will also pluck food from the surface of water while flying. Flying insects are caught on the wing, and, like other gulls, they will also follow plows.


The nest is usually a shallow scrape lined with vegetation, usually on ground in low vegetation. In wet areas, the dirt may be built up into a fairly substantial mound. One to four dull green to gray eggs are laid per clutch. Chicks are able to stand within a day, but generally remain in the nest for a week or so.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
family Laridae
genus & family Larus ridibundus

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  The Robinson Library > Science > Zoology > Birds > Order Charadriiformes

This page was last updated on September 15, 2015.

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