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Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus
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This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Distribution and population
The Meditteranean Gull breeds almost entirely in Europe, mainly on the Black Sea coast of Ukraine, with a recent spread to the northern Caucasian Plains and Azerbaijan. It also breeds at scattered localities throughout Europe, including the Netherlands, southern France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, southern England, Belgium, Germany and Spain. It winters in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, north-west Europe and north-west Africa (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

Behaviour Most populations of this species are fully migratory and travel along coastlines between their breeding and wintering areas (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Olsen and Larsson 2003) (although a minority travel inland across Asian Turkey or follow major river valleys through Eastern and central Europe) (Snow and Perrins 1998). The species returns to its breeding colonies from late-February (Olsen and Larsson 2003) to early-April, with most beginning to breed from early-May (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The Autumn migration to the wintering grounds occurs from late-June onwards (Olsen and Larsson 2003). The species breeds in colonies, usually of less than 1,000 pairs and occasionally in single pairs amidst colonies of other species (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It often breeds near but not among Sandwich Terns Thalasseus sandvicensis, or intermingling with Larus ridibundus (del Hoyo et al. 1996). When breeding in coastal areas the species may fly up to 80 km away from the colony to feed on inland grassland (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Habitat Breeding The species breeds on the Mediterranean coast at lagoons (del Hoyo et al. 1996), estuaries (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998) and sometimes coastal saltmarsh (del Hoyo et al. 1996), often also breeding inland on large steppe lakes and marshes in open lowland areas (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998). It nests near water on flood-lands, fields and grasslands (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998) and on wet or dry areas of islands (Snow and Perrins 1998), favouring sparse vegetation but generally avoiding barren sand (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Non-breeding Outside of the breeding season the species becomes entirely coastal (del Hoyo et al. 1996), favouring estuaries (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996), harbours (del Hoyo et al. 1996), saline lagoons and other sheltered waters (Urban et al. 1986). Diet Breeding During the breeding season its diet consists of terrestrial and aquatic insects, gastropods, small numbers of fish and rodents (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Non-breeding When not breeding the species takes marine fish, molluscs (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996), insects (Urban et al. 1986) (e.g. beetles and grasshoppers) (Milchev et al. 2004), earthworms, berries (Urban et al. 1986), seeds (e.g. of barley, wheat, sunflowers and ragwort) (Milchev et al. 2004), offal (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and occasionally sewage and refuse (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Breeding site The nest is a shallow depression, situated on the ground in sparsely vegetated sites, thickets or reedbeds (del Hoyo et al. 1996) near water (Snow and Perrins 1998). The species breeds in dense colonies, with neighbouring pairs c.60 cm apart (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Management information Artificially constructed nesting sites in coastal locations such as beaches of bare shingle and islands or rafts covered with sparse vegetation are successful in attracting breeding pairs of this species (Burgess and Hirons 1992). A conservation scheme for the protection of gull and tern breeding colonies in coastal lagoons and deltas (e.g. Po Delta, Italy) involves protection from human disturbance, prevention of erosion of islet complexes, habitat maintenance and the creation of new islets for nest sites (Fasola and Canova 1996). The scheme particularly specifies that bare islets with 30-100 % cover of low vegetation (sward heights less than 20 cm) should be maintained or created as nesting sites (Fasola and Canova 1996).

This species sustains heavy losses as a result of tourist disturbance at breeding colonies (James 1984, del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species may also be threatened by habitat loss resulting from tourism development, and by marine pollution (e.g. oil spills and chemical discharges) (James 1984). Utilisation Eggs and adults are collected from breeding colonies by fishermen in the Mediterranean Sea (James 1984).

Burgess, N. D.; Hirons, J. M. 1992. Creation and management of articficial nesting sites for wetland birds. Journal of Environmental Management 34(4): 285-295.

del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., and Sargatal, J. 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Fasola, M.; Canova, L. 1996. Conservation of gull and tern colony sites in north-eastern Italy, an internationally important bird area. Colonial Waterbirds 19: 59-67.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

James, P. C. 1984. The status and conservation of seabirds in the Mediterranean Sea. In: Croxall, J.P.; Evans, P.G.H.; Schreiber, R.W. (ed.), Status and conservation of the world's seabirds, pp. 371-375. International Council for Bird Preservation, Cambridge, U.K.

Milchev, B.; Kodjabashev, N.; Sivkov, Y.; Chobanov, D. 2004. Post-breeding season diet of the Mediterranean gull Larus melanocephalus at the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. Atlantic Seabirds 6(2): 65-78.

Olsen, K. M.; Larsson, H. 2004. Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America. Christopher Helm, London.

Snow, D.W. and Perrins, C.M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic, Volume 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Urban, E.K., Fry, C.H. and Keith, S. 1986. The Birds of Africa, Volume II. Academic Press, London.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Calvert, R., Ekstrom, J. & Malpas, L.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Larus melanocephalus. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Mediterranean gull (Larus melanocephalus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Laridae (Gulls, Terns, Skimmers)
Species name author Temminck, 1820
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 182,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment