The Black-Headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) has recently moved from its previous genus of Larus. Contrary to their name, their head is actually a very dark brown colour!
HABITAT AND DISTRIBUTION
Present in the UK, Europe, Asia, Canada and North America (during Winter), it is a common and widespread species and has been recorded to Winter as far south as Africa. The Black-headed Gull prefers marshes, lakes and the coastlines but it is not uncommon around towns and cities, in fact it thrives inland.
The black-headed gull grows to a length of around 38 - 45cm and has a wingspan of 95 - 105cm. The Summer breeding adult has a white chest and underbelly with pale grey wings and back. The primary wing feathers are tipped with black. The tail is white, and the legs and bill are of a deep orange-red colour. The head is a chocolate brown colour with a white eye ring. The non-breeding adult is similar but with a white head and dark spot behind the eyes. The juveniles are somewhat similar but the first Winter juveniles have a darker tail and dark barring marks on the wing, the first Summer juveniles have a dark streaked head. It takes two years to reach full adult plumage.
DIET, BEHAVIOUR AND REPRODUCTION
The black-headed gull feeds on insects and invertebrates, seeds, fish, carrion and refuse. They are opportunistic feeders and can adapt to a range of habitats, this may be the reason why the black-headed gull has a lifespan of over 30 years. The black-headed gull has a clutch size of 2 - 3 eggs which incubate for around 25 days. The eggs themselves are a creamy brown colour with dark brown speckles.
OTHER NOTABLE INFORMATION
There are a few similar gulls to the black-headed gull. Firstly the Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus) which has a jet black head and vivid red bill, eye ring and legs, and it lacks the black tips to the primary feathers. The second similar gull is the Little Gull (Hydrocoloeus minutus), but this species has a black eye ring and an extremely dark bill. In the animated film Watership Down, the character Kehaar was a Black-headed Gull.
The black-headed gull is listed by the IUCN as Least Concern.