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Black-headed Gull Life History


Lakes and Ponds

Black-headed Gulls nest in habitats near calm, shallow water and forage in plowed fields, grasslands, and on the water. They commonly breed in marshes along ponds, lakes, and slow-moving rivers, but they also use moorlands, sand dunes, saltmarshes, rocky islands, and other settings. Historically, Black-headed Gulls spend the winter in coastal habitats such as inlets, estuaries, mudflats, and beaches, but some are increasingly wintering inland near cities, where they occur in parks, garbage dumps, sewage plants, and agricultural fields.

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Black-headed Gulls are opportunistic feeders that quickly take advantage of available food sources. During the breeding season they mainly eat earthworms and insects (especially beetles and aquatic insects), while at other times of the year, fish, fruit, seeds, and garbage can become more important parts of the diet. Black-headed Gulls feed by picking from the water surface while swimming, performing shallow dips or dives to the water from low flight, hovering to pick fruit from trees, and riding air currents to feed on flying insect outbreaks, among other methods.

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Nest Placement


Typically on the ground in low vegetation, but sometimes on exposed ground or emergent vegetation in shallow water.

Nest Description

A rather large, coarse cup nest lined with dried reeds or other vegetation. Both sexes help build the nest.

Nesting Facts

Clutch Size:1-4 eggs
Number of Broods:1 brood
Incubation Period:22-26 days
Egg Description:

Green with brown splotches.

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Ground Forager

Black-headed Gulls usually nest in colonies with up to 100 pairs, but some exceptional colonies contain more than 10,000 pairs. Pairs form monogamous bonds that last at least one breeding season and may be renewed in subsequent years. Both sexes contribute to nest building, incubation, and caring for the young.

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Least Concern

IUCN lists Black-headed Gull’s conservation status as Least Concern, due to an extremely large population (estimated at 4.8–8.9 million individuals) and an extremely large range. The current population trend is unknown.

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Cramp, S., and K. E. L. Simmons (1983). The Birds of the Western Palearctic, Volume 3: Waders to Gulls. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (2022). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2022-2.

Jonsson, L. (1992). Birds of Europe with North Africa and the Middle East. Christopher Helm, London.

Malling Olsen, K., and H. Larsson. (2003). Gulls of North America, Europe, and Asia. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, USA.

Svensson, L., K. Mullarney, and D. Zetterström (2009). Collins Bird Guide. Second edition. HarperCollins, London, UK.

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