Black-headed gull

The black-headed gull is familiar to all of us, but no less interesting bird. Most often, this type is depicted by the authors of textbooks for children. Any child will be able to distinguish this representative of birds from other birds. Residents of the northern part of our country can often see a picture of a snow-white black-headed gull catching small fish on the seashore. Many people get out of their homes on weekends to watch a typical for many, but this one is no less fascinating picture of a flock of seagulls chasing a ship.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Black-headed Gull

Photo: Black-headed gull

In general, the first mention of the gull family appeared in the 18th century. Until now, people have not been able to understand what the name of this bird is connected with, but there is only an assumption that it somehow correlates with the sound it makes.

This particular type of gull occurred through evolution and the emergence of new genomes. Like any animal, seagulls had to adapt to the environment and continue their lineage. It was this factor that influenced the appearance of such a bird as the black-headed gull.

The black-headed gull itself is the most common species of the gull family. They are distributed literally all over the globe, but most of them are in Europe. Also, this bird is the smallest in its large family, which includes more than 40 species of different gulls.

Many believe that the black-headed gull is the most beautiful species from the Charadriiformes order, which also includes such birds, like Oystercatchers, Avdotka, Snipe and others.

Appearance and Features

Photo: Black-headed Gull

Photo: Black-headed Gull

The black-headed gull, as we have already said, is a rather small bird. Its dimensions can reach a maximum of only 38 centimeters in length. The wingspan of the species we are considering is also small – only 90 centimeters, and its weight varies from 200 to 350 grams. The beak of the black-headed gull is not yellow, like in most species of gulls, but dark burgundy.

Among the features of the appearance of the black-headed gull, one can single out the fact that it changes its plumage depending on the season. In winter, her head is painted white, and in summer in rich black. Also, it is distinguished from other species of the gull family by a characteristic white stripe, which is located on the upper part of the wing in front. By the way, the black-headed gull plumage cycle takes about 2 years.

The plumage of chicks is slightly different from adults. They are dominated by reddish colors on the wings. The legs are painted gray, so from the outside it seems that the chick is constantly walking on dirty ground.

The voice of black-headed gulls is very sonorous. Scientists say that the sounds they make are often very similar to crows, but they are sharper, so they can sometimes even resemble laughter.

Where does the black-headed gull live?

Photo: Black-headed Gull

Photo: Black-headed gull

Black-headed gulls live mainly in the temperate climate zone, but their migration areas also include subtropical and tropical zones of northern latitude.

In general, the nests of black-headed gulls are located along the shores of the seas, mainly the Black Sea. This type of gull can be found in various countries:

  • France
  • Italy
  • Serbia
  • Bulgaria
  • Russia and others

On the territory of our country, it can be seen on the coast of the White Sea, the Bering Sea, near Arkhangelsk and in the valley of various rivers, such as the Lena, Ob, Yenisei and others.

Interesting fact: Black-headed gulls most often fly to new territory in small flocks, moving in the form of a triangle.

Recently, the black-headed gull has begun to adapt more and more to life next to humans. Some individuals begin to build their nests near small villages. These are rather forced measures for black-headed gulls, as in this way they try to find more food for themselves than the sea coast can provide them.

What does the black-headed gull eat?

Photo: Black-headed Gull

Photo: Black-headed Gull

The nutrition of the black-headed gull is quite diverse, but first of all it strongly depends on the place where the bird’s nest is located. If the nest is located close to the seashore, then the diet of this bird usually consists of invertebrates (earthworms, dragonflies, beetles, larvae, and others). Also, from time to time, the black-headed gull is not averse to feasting on small fish and small rodents, such as voles.

In the case that we considered in the previous section, when birds live near a human settlement, they usually feed on waste in landfills, as well as at light industry enterprises.

Peculiarities of character and lifestyle

Photo: Black-headed Gull

Photo: Black-headed Gull

The black-headed gull does not have one specific lifestyle. Species are both migratory and resident. In the west and south of Europe, most species do not migrate regardless of temperature. However, this rule does not apply to intermediate areas, since in them, after 0 degrees Celsius, birds begin to flock closer to the coasts of many seas:

  • Mediterranean
  • Black
  • Caspian

From the 1900s, flocks of black-headed gulls also began to appear on the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean, along Africa.

Fun fact: The black-headed gull actually has the ability to adapt to almost any habitat without much difficulty, so the wintering period is not at all terrible for them.

Black-headed gulls are most active in the morning and evening. During the day, they can build their nests and search for food. As the location of their nests, these birds most often choose some hard-to-reach places. So they try to protect themselves and their chicks from various external dangers. Nesting sites are easy to identify by the calls characteristic of black-headed gulls.

Black-headed gulls are accustomed to building their nests mainly from various hard materials. For a nest, a bird most often needs a small area, but this place should be located on average at a height of 30 to 40 centimeters. In places with particularly high humidity, black-headed gulls usually allocate a little more space to build a nest so that it does not get wet and fall apart.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Black-headed Gull

Photo: Black-headed Gull

Pairs do not migrate during breeding, preferring to remain in their place. Its change occurs only in case of adverse conditions. Birds are ready for breeding already at 1-4 years of age, and males mature later than females. Black-headed gulls are monogamous, although they may change several partners before the final pair is formed. They start nesting in the spring, when the weather becomes warmer, in places difficult for predators to reach.

The marriage ritual goes like this. The male with calls stretches his head in an inclined posture, then straightens up and turns away. So he expresses greetings to his future companion. The female, in turn, responds to the male with a peculiar cry and tilt of her head, as if begging for food. Birds build nests about a meter from each other, or even tens of meters. Each family guards its territory within a radius of 32-47cm.

Eggs have a fairly diverse color, for example, dark brown, light blue, olive-brown, greenish-buff. Some eggs have their own pattern, but they can also be without it at all. Usually one clutch is 3 eggs, less often 1-2 pieces. When lost, they are re-deposited. Both the male and the female are involved in the process.

The chicks are covered with down, merging them with the environment, ocher-brown with ocher-black spots. Babies begin to fly in 25-30 days. They eat food from their parents’ beaks or peck at the writing thrown out by their parents directly from the nest.

Natural enemies of black-headed gulls

Photo: Black-headed Gull

Photo: Black-headed Gull

Black-headed Gulls have few natural enemies, as they are large and aggressive birds themselves .

If the nest of black-headed gulls is located close to the forest area, then the common fox can become their enemy. It destroys the nest, and can also harm the birds themselves if the mammal overtook them while resting.

The fact is that all types of gulls are characterized by the fact that they cause the most damage to each other. This species has often been spotted by researchers during food fights. In some cases, it even came to ruining the nests of their relatives.

People can also be attributed to the natural enemies of black-headed gulls. Sometimes they become victims for their aggressive lifestyle. Birds often fly into fish processing plants in the hope of stealing at least a small prey for themselves and their chicks.

Population and species status

Photo: Black-headed Gull

Photo: Black-headed Gull

The black-headed gull population is growing every year. At the moment, it already exceeds 2 million species. Gradually, this species begins to develop more and more new territories for migration and reproduction.

Interesting fact:Some ducks prefer to start a family in the same territory as gulls. This cohabitation gives duck clutches and ducks more chances to survive, therefore, it can be said that the population of gulls “protects” the population of ducks.

The black-headed gull has a large radius of dispersion. Thanks to this feature, they help people get rid of pests in agriculture. It is important to note that this species also plays the role of a nurse. Seagulls collect leftover food from fur farms.

Despite the huge positive contribution of the black-headed gull, it has a negative impact on fisheries, although many argue that this harm is greatly exaggerated.


Summing up our reasoning, first of all, I would like to say that the black-headed gull is a very beautiful bird. Despite our aggressive lifestyle, we – people – need to try to take care of the fauna around us. For the successful coexistence of the species, special places in captivity can be identified, where birds could get food and breed without parasitism for humans. We must find ways to peacefully resolve differences with animals.

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