Mediterranean Gull

Larus melanocephalus

36-38cm

Appearance

This gull is stouter than Black-headed Gull, its head is bigger, its bill more solid, and its dark red legs longer. The sexes are similar but the plumage varies by season. During spring the bill is blood-red with a black line before the yellow tip. It has a black hood with white markings around the eye, the back and wing coverts are pale grey and the tips of the wings white. Winter birds lack the black hood, but have dark smudges around the eye, and the nape is grey. Juvenile birds are greyish brown and have a scaly appearance due to the pale edges of back feathers. There's a dark tinge on the breast, which separates it from the pale neck and head. The underparts are white, the bill and legs dark, and the tail has a dark band. During their first winter, birds resemble juveniles, but they have flecks of black around the eye and the back is greyish. The dark hood begins to form in the first summer, and second-winter birds are quite similar to adults, though they have black on the wing-tips.

Habitat

Marshes, lagoons or coastal islands are ideal breeding habitats. May also nest in fields close to inland water. During winter, they are coastal, often roosting on grasslands near to beaches.

Character

May walk or poise stationary with its head hunched into its shoulders. When flying it looks thick, and if comparing to the Black-headed Gull, its wings appear more rounded and slightly fuller. Associates with Black-headed Gulls throughout the year, and may even hybridise with that species. Breeding takes place in colonies and migration often occurs in large flocks.

Food

Mostly eats insects, worms and fish during spring, and at other times relies more on fish and shellfish, as well as scavenged offal and human scraps.

Breeding

Commonly nests within colonies of Black-headed Gull colonies. Breeding starts during May when 3 eggs are usually laid. Both parents incubate for approximately 24 days; once the young hatch, both parents feed them. The ability to fly takes about 35-40 days, and independence is gained around that time too.

Population

Departs breeding grounds in June or July. In excess of 600 pairs breed in Britain, and most of these are in the south of England.

Observation Tips

Despite quite generous distributions in the region, the south coast of England is the best place to view this bird, particularly around Weymouth, the Solent and Folkestone. Not uncommon to spot these birds lingering in coastal public spaces such as car parks, scavenging for scraps.

Voice

Most commonly utters a deep 'cow-cow-cow' call.
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