Black-headed gull

Black-headed Gull

Black-headed gull (summer) ©Amy Lewis

Black-headed Gull

Black-headed gull (winter) ©Tom Marshall

Black-headed gull

Scientific name: Chroicocephalus ridibundus
The black-headed gull is actually a chocolate-brown headed gull! And for much of the year, it's head even turns white. Look out for it in large, noisy flocks on a variety of habitats.

Species information


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

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).

When to see

January to December


The black-headed gull is a familiar sight on farmland, wetland and coastal habitats throughout the UK. It nests on saltmarshes and on islands in flooded gravel pits and reservoirs, and sometimes forms very large, noisy colonies. There are about 140,000 breeding pairs in the UK and about 2.2 million wintering birds each year.

How to identify

The black-headed gull is our commonest small gull. During summer, it actually has a chocolate-brown head, rather than a jet-black one, 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.



Did you know?

The species-specific part of the black-headed gull's Latin name, Chroicocephalus ridibundus, means 'laughing ' and comes from its 'ke-ke-ke' and 'kverarrr' calls.