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Black-headed gull


37 to 42 centimeters, with a wingspan of around 90 centimeters


225 to 350 grams


white body with chocolate brown head and gray-tipped wings. Beak and legs are dark red.


10 to 15 years




fly, walk, swim


sexually mature: after 3 years
3-4 eggs per nest
incubation time: 23-26 days

  • Dut: Kokmeeuw
  • Eng: Black-headed Gull
  • Fren: Mouette rieuse
  • Ger: Lachmöwe
  • Dan: Hættemige
  • Nor: Hettemike
  • Fries: Kob
  • Ital: Gabbiano comune
  • Lat: Larus ridibundus
Black-headed gull, Jeroen Reneerkens (

Black-headed gull

Black-headed gulls are not fussy eaters. They like everything, from worms to bird eggs to fish. Furthermore, they also profit from all kinds of human sources of rubbish such as garbage barrels. Not all black-headed gulls earn their meal in an honest way. They steal worms from shorebirds and fish from terns. Nor are people always safe. Should your ice cream or french fries fall on the ground, it quickly disappears in the beak of these master thieves. You find black-headed gulls almost everywhere. They are a common shorebird, land-bird and city-bird.

  • Bald head
    Black-headed gull, winter, foto fitis, adriaan dijksen

    Black-headed gulls lose their typical black cap in the winter, making it easy to mistake them for common gulls. However, a black spot remains behind the eyes. Common gulls never have such a spot.

  • Distribution and habitat
    Black-headed gull, foto fitis, sytske dijksen

    Black-headed gulls nest in northern and western Europe and overwinter in western and southern Europe. The breeding colonies found in the dunes or marshes can contain thousands of nests. There are around 500,000 black-headed gulls in the entire international wadden region.
    These gulls always return to the same places, whether it is their winter home or nesting grounds. Strange enough, 70% of the black-headed gulls that spend the winter in the city are male. The division on the Wadden Islands is 50-50. Nowhere in the Netherlands do you find more females than males. Which means that some of the females probably migrate further south.

  • Colonies
    Kokmeeuw, Lachmöwe, black-headed gull, Salko de Wolf, Ecomare

    In the Netherlands, black-headed gulls often nest with other colony birds, such as sandwich terns, common terns, black-necked grebes and oystercatchers. They profit from each others protection from predators. Marsh harriers often nest in the vicinity of these colonies since there are many prey victims to catch. The population on the mainland has declined partially due to fox predation. However in the wadden region, the populations have even grown.

  • Did you know that...

    ... adult males care for the brood more during the day than females? The difference is not great, but still... Other results from studies have shown that the diet between males and females differ. Males eat what is closest by the nest and more available while females forage further away, eating more buzzer midges and other such animals. How do we know that? Females are more often traffic victims, making it easy to investigate their stomach contents. Males are more easily lured by bread and are also found more often in towns outside of breeding season. Some scientists think the difference in diet is related to the more dominant position of the males, forcing the females to eat otherwise.

  • Cuckoo-gulls

    Some female black-headed gulls secretly lay eggs in the nest of their colony mates. Studies have shown that the female gulls which get such an egg in their nest are usually related to the one laying the egg. Every once in awhile, the strange egg is thrown out of the nest. In those cases, the gull laying the egg was not family of the owner of the new nest.