Black-headed Gull

Chroicocephalus ridibundus (Linnaeus, 1766) BH BLHGU 5820
Family: Charadriiformes > Laridae

Perhaps the most familiar of our gull species, even though not the most numerous, the Black-headed Gull breeds and winters across most of Britain & Ireland, absent only from upland areas.

The Black-headed Gull is a colonial breeder, nesting at a wide range of coastal and inland waterbodies, both natural and artificial. Colony sizes can vary from just a few pairs to many thousands, and are usually obvious.

A contraction in the wintering range of this species within both Britain and Ireland is apparent in atlas data, with losses in central Wales, and across much of Ireland and parts of Scotland.


Black-headed Gull identification is often straightforward. The following article may help when identifying Black-headed Gull.

related video

Identifying small black-headed gulls

A hooded gull in summer is likely to be the ubiquitous Black-headed Gull, but there are a couple of other species that sport the same summer finery. Would you be able to pick out a Little or Mediterranean Gull from the crowd?


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Black-headed Gull, provided by xeno-canto contributors.


Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses

Our interactive online courses are a great way to develop your bird identification skills, whether you're new to the hobby or a competent birder looking to hone your abilities.

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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



The UK population of Black-headed Gulls breeding at coastal colonies remained relatively stable between the 1969–70 Census and Seabird 2000 (1998–2002). However, the trend for inland breeding birds, which make up nearly half the population, is unknown as inland colonies were not surveyed fully prior to Seabird 2000. Annual data from the Seabird Monitoring Programme suggest that numbers have continued to be stable or may have increased slightly since Seabird 2000; results from the more comprehensive Seabirds Count (2015–2021) will confirm the recent trend when they are available (JNCC 2022).


In winter, Black-headed Gulls have a near-ubiquitous distribution in lowland Britain & Ireland. In Britain the only significant gaps are in the Scottish and Welsh uplands, and the largest gaps in Ireland are in the northwest, between Antrim and Connemara. They nest in a wide range of coastal and inland, natural and man-made wetlands. Highest densities in Britain are in Orkney, northern England, East Anglia, the Thames Estuary, and the Solent, and in Ireland are more fragmented around Lough Neagh, Strangford Lough, and at several large wetland complexes scattered throughout the west and northwest.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2

Breeding Season Habitats

Relative frequency by habitat

Relative occurrence in different habitat types during the breeding season.

>Bar of similar size indicate the species is equally likely to be recorded in those habitats


The breeding distribution change map can be divided roughly diagonally, with the north and west characterised by range losses contrasting with a predominance of range gains in the southeast.

Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK


Black-headed Gulls are common and widespread, recorded throughout the year.

Weekly occurence of Black-headed Gull from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.

An overview of year-round movements for the whole of Europe can be seen on the EuroBirdPortal viewer.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Black-headed Gull ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


Lifecycle and body size information about Black-headed Gull, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Faoileag-a’-chinn-duibh
Welsh: Gwylan Benddu
Catalan: gavina riallera
Czech: racek chechtavý
Danish: Hættemåge
Dutch: Kokmeeuw
Estonian: naerukajakas
Finnish: naurulokki
French: Mouette rieuse
German: Lachmöwe
Hungarian: dankasirály
Icelandic: Hettumáfur
Irish: Sléibhín
Italian: Gabbiano comune
Latvian: lielais kiris
Lithuanian: rudagalvis kiras
Norwegian: Hettemåke
Polish: (mewa) smieszka
Portuguese: guincho
Slovak: cajka smejivá
Slovenian: recni galeb
Spanish: Gaviota reidora
Swedish: skrattmås
Folkname: Petch


Interpretation and scientific publications about Black-headed Gull from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

Black-headed Gull productivity has fluctuated and may have been affected by predation from American Mink Neovison vison (Craik 1997), although it is unclear whether this may have driven population trends.

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