Little Gull

Hydrocoloeus minutus (Pallas, 1776) LU LITGU 5780
Family: Charadriiformes > Laridae

Little Gull, Graham Catley

This dainty gull is most often seen during its northward spring migration, when small parties can turn up along the coast or even at inland waters.

A very attractive bird in smart summer dress, the adult Little Gull has a black hood, dusky underwings, small black bill and bright red legs. It sits high in the water, when its white wingtips can be seen. In flight it is light and airy, and dips to the water surface to pick up invertebrate prey.

Some Little Gulls stay in Britain all winter, an increasing trend likely to be caused by the a range expansion in western Europe. Individuals may be seen on sea-watches, particularly after strong winds and winter storms when occasional individuals are blown to inland reservoirs and lakes.

Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Little Gull

  • Breeding
  • Winter


Little Gull identification is often straightforward. The following article may help when identifying Little 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 Little 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.




Little Gulls winter south to the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean off North Africa, though small numbers remain in the Irish Sea, English Channel and North Sea. Numbers seen in winter around the UK vary annually depending on the weather conditions; during onshore gales they may be reported from nearby coasts and occasionally inland. Little Gulls are a very rare and sporadic breeder in the UK.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


Records of Little Gulls have increased considerably in Britain & Ireland since the 1950s and a 44% winter range expansion is apparent since the 1981–84 Winter Atlas. This is likely to be linked to the westward extension of the species’ breeding range.


Little Gulls are recorded throughout the year, with peaks in spring and autumn passage.

Weekly occurence of Little 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.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Little 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 Little 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-bheag
Welsh: Gwylan Fechan
Catalan: gavina menuda
Czech: racek malý
Danish: Dværgmåge
Dutch: Dwergmeeuw
Estonian: väikekajakas
Finnish: pikkulokki
French: Mouette pygmée
German: Zwergmöwe
Hungarian: kis sirály
Icelandic: Dvergmáfur
Irish: Sléibhín Beag
Italian: Gabbianello
Latvian: mazais kiris
Lithuanian: mažasis kiras
Norwegian: Dvergmåke
Polish: mewa mala
Portuguese: gaivota-pequena
Slovak: cajka malá
Slovenian: mali galeb
Spanish: Gaviota enana
Swedish: dvärgmås

Links to more information from

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