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White-eyed Gull Larus leucophthalmus
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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This species is listed as Near Threatened because it is expected to experience a moderately rapid population decline in the next three generations (33 years) owing to a number of threats including introduced predators, oil-spills, the harvest of eggs and chicks and disturbance. If the population was found to be declining more rapidly, the species might qualify for a higher threat category.

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.

41 cm. A rather dark gull with black head in adult plumage. Adult has grey back, complete black hood with an almost continuous white eye ring and rather long, dark red bill. Juvenile is brown above with a brownish wash on head, breast and flanks; the bill is black and there is a black tail band. All ages have a dark underwing. Similar spp. Told from Sooty Gull Larus hemprichii by slightly smaller size, and, in adult plumage, all-black hood and bib, dark grey upperparts, all-dark bill (dark red with black tip, unlike two-tone bill of Sooty Gull) and conspicuous white eye-ring. Hints Often associates with Sooty and other gulls around fishing ports on the Red Sea.

Distribution and population
Larus leucophthalmus breeds colonially on inshore islands and islets in the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, in Egypt (2,500 pairs [PERSGA/GEF 2003], mainly on islands at the mouth of the Gulf of Suez [Baha El Din 1999]), Sudan (300-1,000 pairs [PERSGA/GEF 2003]), Eritrea (1,400 adults in the Dahlak Archipelago in 1962), Djibouti (600-700 pairs [PERSGA/GEF 2003]), Saudi Arabia (more than 1,500 pairs [PERSGA/GEF 2003]), Yemen (at least 3,900 pairs [PERSGA/GEF 2003]) and Somalia (1,200-2,200 pairs [PERSGA/GEF 2003]), with wintering birds dispersing throughout the breeding range. The total population is estimated as 12,000-13,000 breeding pairs (36,000-39,000 individuals) (PERSGA/GEF 2003), excluding Eritrea, equating to 37,000-44,000 individuals overall (PERSGA/GEF 2003); it is believed to be stable (Rose and Scott 1997).

Population justification
PERSGA/GEF (2003) estimated 12,000-13,000 breeding pairs (36,000-39,000 individuals), excluding Eritrea, equating to 37,000-44,000 individuals overall.

Trend justification
The population is believed to be stable (Rose and Scott 1997).

Behaviour This species is mostly sedentary (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996), although it disperses from its breeding sites to occur throughout the Red Sea during the non-breeding season (Olsen and Larsson 2004). There may also be some southward and eastward movement during this time, when it is reported to become scarce in the northern part of its range (Urban et al. 1986). Breeding takes place during the months of June - August, extending to September in Egypt (Urban et al. 1986). It breeds in loose colonies, usually consisting of fewer than 25 pairs, though occasionally larger colonies of hundreds of individuals are known to occur (del Hoyo et al. 1996). During the non-breeding season it is usually found in small groups, but sometimes forms flocks of hundreds or even thousands to forage (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Habitat The species is mainly coastal. It usually feeds at sea (PERSGA/GEF 2003), but some Egyptian populations have adopted a scavenging role at rubbish tips and harbours (S. Baha El Din verbally to A. Grieve 1999). Breeding It breeds on inshore islands, where it occupies bare rock and sand flats (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Non-breeding Outside the breeding season it often occurs further out to sea (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It roosts on rocks, coral reefs, piers and fishing vessels (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Diet The diet consists largely of fish, but also includes crustaceans, molluscs, annelids and offal (del Hoyo et al. 1996, PERSGA/GEF 2003). Fish species taken in Egypt include Scarpus species about 110mm in length (Urban et al. 1986). It also feeds on fruits and plants such as Nitraria retusa (Urban et al. 1986), and is known to predate the eggs and nestlings of the Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis (Urban et al. 1986). It scavenges in the northern part of its range, but to a lesser extent than does L. hemprichii with which it often associates (Urban et al. 1986, del Hoyo et al. 1996). Breeding Site Nests occur on bare rock, sand or exposed flats (del Hoyo et al. 1996). On sandy substrates the nest consists of a conspicuous ring of twigs, seaweed and debris (Urban et al. 1986). On rocky islands it consists of a small pad of vegetable matter beside rocks (Urban et al. 1986). It may alternatively consist of a scrape among impenetrable Euphorbia clumps (Urban et al. 1986). It lays two or three eggs (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

There are a variety of potential threats, against which it is not secure. It is permanently at serious risk from introduced predators on the breeding islands (e.g. rats) and from floating and beached oil-spills (del Hoyo et al. 1996), and is also under pressure from egg- and chick-collecting (especially in Somalia [Ash and Miskell 1998, PERSGA/GEF 2003]), disturbance by fishermen and tourists (and related building) and oil exploration (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It is known to be affected by West Nile virus (Rappole and Hubálek 2003).

Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix I and II. Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor population trends. Control the harvest of eggs and chicks. Prevent the introduction of mammalian predators to breeding colonies and control them where this has taken place. Enforce measures to prevent and mitigate oil-spills. Enforce measures to control disturbance. Ensure the majority of breeding colonies are protected.

Ash, J. S.; Miskell, J. E. 1998. Birds of Somalia. Pica Press, Robertsbridge, U.K.

Baha El Din, S. M. 1999. Directory of Important Bird Areas in Egypt. BirdLife International, Cairo.

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.

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

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

PERSGA/GEF. 2003. Status of breeding seabirds in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. PERSGA, Jeddah.

Rappole, J. H., Hubálek, Z. 2003. Migratory birds and West Nile virus . Journal of Applied Microbiology 94(S): 47S-58S.

Rose, P. M.; Scott, D. A. 1997. Waterfowl population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, Netherlands.

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 accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

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., Evans, M., O'Brien, A., Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Starkey, M. & Taylor, J.

Baha El Din, S. & Grieve, A.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Larus leucophthalmus. 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 - White-eyed gull (Larus leucophthalmus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Laridae (Gulls, Terns, Skimmers)
Species name author Temminck, 1825
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Stable
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 721,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- Projected distributions under climate change