This species may undergo a moderately rapid population decline in future if current fishery practices change and as such it is precautionarily treated as Near Threatened.
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: http://www.aerc.eu/DOCS/Bird_taxa_of _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.
Dowsett, R. J.; Forbes-Watson, A. D. 1993. Checklist of birds of the Afrotropical and Malagasy regions. Tauraco Press, Li
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
48-52 cm. An elegant medium sized gull with pale grey upperparts. Adult has distinctive bill at close range dark reddish with pale tip unlike any of the larger gulls. Rump, underwing flanks, sides of breast, and hindneck are washed with pale grey, contrasting in good conditions with the whiter head. In flight slight contrast between pale grey upperwing and white trailing edge to the secondaries and strong contrst with black area of the primaries . Winter adult has brownish freckiling on nape and sides of head. Legs dark greyish or greenish and iris dark. Sexes similar. Similar spp. Herring Gull L. argentatus, Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus (especially juveniles), Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans. L. audouinii Has more elegant appearance with with long, sloping forehead and different facial expression. Legs, bill and iris dark at all ages. Paler grey upperparts than Herring or Yellow-legged Gulls; in flight the wings are slimmer and more pointed and tail appears short narrow. Only one mirror in wingtip compared to usual two in Herring and Yellow-legged Gulls. Voice Typically gull-like and similar to Herring Gull but hoarser and deeper. Hints Scavenges less than other gulls often seen patrolling the sea with steady flight gliding for longer periods than other similar gulls. Will attend fishing boats.
Distribution and populationLarus audouinii
breeds in (all data for pairs) Spain
(19,517 [Gutirrez and Guinart 2008]), mainly the Chafarinas Islands and the Ebro Delta with the latter holding 67% of the global population
(14,177 in 2007 [Gutirrez and Guinart 2008]), Algeria
(300-500 (D. Portolou in litt.
2010), and Sardinia and Tuscan Archipelago, Italy
(1,019 [N. Baccetti in litt.
2008]), with smaller colonies in Portugal
(11 [Gutirrez and Guinart 2008]), Corsica, France
(84 in 2009 [Recorbet and Culioli 2009]), Cyprus
(c. 32 [Charalambidou and Gcel 2008]), islets and rocks in the southern Adriatic Sea near Korcula and Peljesac Peninsula, Croatia
(65 in 5 colonies [Rubinic and Vrezec 2000]), Turkey
(60-90 [G. Eken in litt.
(70-115) and Morocco
(50-300). It winters on the coast of North and West Africa from Libya
west to Morocco and south to Mauritania
(Sanpera et al
. 2007) and there is a small wintering population in the east Mediterranean along the Aegean coast of Turkey. The global population has been estimated at 21,161 pairs (Gutirrez and Guinart 2008), and a recent assessment estimated the European population (encompassing over 90% of the global population) to be stable or increasing throughout (Barov and Derh 2011). This represents a significant increase from an estimated population of 1,000 pairs in 1975 and is thought to be a result of the increased availability mainly of effectively protected areas during the 1980s, and secondly of discarded fish from the trawlers, particularly around the Ebro Delta (Criado 1997) where the colony has grown rapidly since 1981 (Guitirrez and Guinart 2008). The large expansion of Larus audouinii
in the western Mediterranean has probably caused the breeding population in other parts of the Mediterranean to increase and new colonies have been found in Croatia and even out of the Mediterranean in southern Portugal (BirdLife International 2004; Onmus 2006). Nevertheless more than 90% of the European breeding population occurs at just four sites and only a single site (the Ebro Delta) held 67% of the global breeding numbers in 2007. Recruitment can be extremely rapid when food availability is high, resulting in high population growth rates (Tavecchia et al
. 2007; Oro and Pradel 2000). It is a long-lived species with high adult survival and relatively low fertility. Adult annual survival is estimated at 0.95 (Tavecchia et al
. 2007; Oro et al
. 1999, 2004). Population justification
Gutiérrez and Guinart (2008) reported a global population of 21,161 pairs. However, more recent figures point to a total of
21,300-22,300 pairs, of which 21,080-21,310 pairs are in Europe. The global population is therefore estimated to number 63,900-66,900 individuals (G. Eken in litt.
1999, N. Baccetti
2008, D. Portolou in litt.
The population has expanded owing to increased availability of fisheries discards close to key breeding
colonies. Current fishery practices are unsustainable and may result in collapse in the fishery in the future. This would induce population declines in Audouin's Gull. EcologyBehaviour
Audouin's Gull is a medium sized gull largely restricted to the Mediterranean. It is partially migratory and dispersive (del Hoyo et al.
1996). It breeds in large monospecific colonies ranging from 10 up to 10,000 pairs (del Hoyo et al.
1996) at a density of up to 1 nest/ sq. m (del Hoyo et al.
. Egg-laying takes place in the second half of April until the beginning of May, and peak hatching occurs in late May (del Hoyo et al.
1996), with fledging mainly in the first two weeks of July. It has a large foraging range while breeding, and has been recorded up to 200 km from the colony (Maosa et al
. 2004). After breeding the birds disperse widely around the Mediterranean coast (Sanpera et al
. 2007; del Hoyo et al.
1996). Almost all juveniles and some adults migrate past Gibraltar during July-October (Olsen and Larsson 2003), peaking in August (Guitirrez and Guinart 2008), to winter on the North African coast (del Hoyo et al.
1996). During the winter it roosts in flocks of several thousand (Olsen and Larsson 2003). It returns to its breeding sites between late February and mid April (del Hoyo et al.
1996). First year birds remain in the non-breeding range throughout the summer (Cramp and Simmons 1983), while most third-summer birds attend the breeding colony as non-breeders (Gutirrez and Guinart 2008). Second-summer birds migrate to the Mediterranean but do not join the colony, instead forming large gatherings, often far from colonies (Gutirrez and Guinart 2008). Very high colony-site fidelity is probably related to previous breeding success. However, in the Aegean Islands, birds return to the same "island group" but not necessarily to the same islet. At the Ebro Delta, Spain, c.1,400 breeders disperse to other colonies every year, generating marked fluctuations at those sites (Tavecchia et al
. 2007). The Audouin's Gull is one of the few species of Larid to show nocturnal foraging patterns, which may be linked to fisheries activities; arrivals and departures from the Ebro Delta colony are in accordance with the trawling timetable (Maosa et al
. 2004). The species scavenges around fishing vessels, and uses discards extensively and very efficiently (Maosa et al
. 2004). The species's association with fisheries is more pronounced in the western than in the central and eastern Mediterranean (Pedrocchi et al.
2002). A trawler moratorium off the Ebro Delta established in 1991 reduced food availability to birds and impacted breeding success, possibly by increasing foraging ranges (Arcos and Oro 1996). Habitat Breeding
Colonies are located on exposed rocky cliffs and on offshore islands or islets (Cramp and Simmons 1983), normally not more than 50 m above sea level (Cramp and Simmons 1983). The Ebro delta colony is located on saltmarsh and a sandy peninsula
(Olsen and Larsson 2003). In the Aegean it breeds on uninhabited islands sloping gently to the sea and covered with large stones, eryngo Eryngium
, grass and low bushes of Pistacia lentiscus
(Cramp and Simmons 1983). Characteristics of habitats used differ from region to region and even within the same areas in different years: altitude ranges from close to sea-level to 100 m, vegetation cover from bare rocks to 85% bush cover, and slope from 0-90o
. Medium vegetation cover is preferred, and this probably provides chicks with shelter from heat and predators. The concentration of breeding colonies in the western Mediterranean is possibly related to the lower water salinity and higher abundance of clupeids. Non-breeding
During the non-breeding season the species prefers sheltered bays, either flat and shingly, sandy or with cliffed margins (Cramp and Simmons 1983). It sometimes visits seaside resorts and marinas lured by food, and it especially likes areas on beaches where freshwater occurs, such as stream mouths or floods (Cramp and Simmons 1983). It is a coastal species, rarely occurring inland and generally not travelling far offshore (Cramp and Simmons 1983). Diet
This species was historically thought to feed far out to sea, but more recent observations show that it feeds regularly along the coast. The diet consists mostly of epipelagic fish, especially Clupeiformes, for which it sometimes forages at night, taking advantage of its prey's diel migration patterns (Maosa et al
. 2004) and of commercial fishing by purse-seine netting (Pedrocchi et al.
2002). It is also known to take some aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, small birds and plant material such as the peanut Arachis
, olive Olea
, and grain (Cramp and Simmons 1983). The Ebro delta colony feeds largely on fish waste dumped by boats fishing nearby (Oro and Martnez-Vilalta 1992). The species is also known to feed on food discarded at tourist beaches (Cramp and Simmons 1983), and during a moratorium on trawling, it was found to forage in marshes, rice fields and occasionally at refuse tips (Maosa et al
. 2004; del Hoyo et al.
1996). They began to exploit the introduced North American Red Swamp Crayfish Procambarus clarkia
, which are abundant in rice fields around the delta (Gutirrez and Guinart 2008). Hence Ebro Delta birds have developed from being mainly pelagic foragers to more coastal-foraging, even scavenging species (Gutirrez and Guinart 2008). The fishing mortatorium was relaxed in 2000 during the birds breeding season, and as discards became available, so the population was boosted once again (Gutirrez and Guinart 2008). Diet during the breeding season has been found to vary between colonies due to fishing practices that target different species in the respective areas (Pedrocchi et al.
2002). Breeding site
The nests is a shallow scrape lined with available debris and vegetation (Cramp and Simmons 1983). It is placed among rocks and vegetation (del Hoyo et al.
1996). Foraging range
During the non-breeding season, surveys in Morocco found birds no further than 46 km from the coast (Hoogendoorn and Mackrill 1987), and generally <40 km from the colony seems to be the norm
(Maosa et al
. 2004). However, the maximum recorded foraging range from a colony was 160 km
(Maosa et al
. 2004). In recent years, some birds have remained at the Ebro Delta colony over-winter, with an average of c. 90 birds during 1996-2008, but occasionally up to 300 birds (Gutirrez and Guinart 2008). The species primarily forages in coastal and continental shelf areas between 5 and 15 nautical miles (nm) offshore. A radius of 15 nm from the Ebro Delta would ensure the protection of 30% of the birds (or 30% of the foraging area). A 30 nm radius would protect 80% of birds. These distances could be reduced in colonies where the surrounding continental shelf is narrower (SEO/BirdLife in litt.
2010). Juveniles tend to forage in upwelling zones, whereas subadults and adults are more independent of these sites (Martinez-Abrain et al 2002). It remains extremely rare along the northern coast of Spain (Gutirrez and Guinart 2008).Threats
The trawling fishery off the Ebro Delta is regarded as unsustainable and its collapse would probably result in a decline in the breeding population due to the increase in density-dependence (Oro et al
. 2004, Tavecchia et al
. 2007, Barov and Derh 2011). A similar outcome would arise if waste from the trawlers were used industrially to produce food for domestic animals, as occurs in other areas, rather than being dumped near the Ebro colony. More important could be the reduction of small-pelagic fish stocks, the main natural prey for Audouin's Gull, due to increasingly high fishing pressure around the breeding grounds, owing partly to high demand by tuna-farming (Arcos et al
. 2006). Other important threats include coastal tourism developments, regulation of the river Ebro, mortality due to entanglement in fishing gear (mainly longlines and sporting lines) (Cooper et al
. 2003; Belda and Snchez 2000), and predation by terrestrial predators, such as red fox Vulpes vulpes
, badger Meles meles
and domestic dogs (Tavecchia et al
. 2007; Oro et al
. 1999). Predation by sympatric Yellow-legged Gull L. michahellis
can be high at some breeding colonies, especially when densities of Audouin's Gulls are low (Bonaccorsi 2003; Travichon 2004; Oro et al
. 2006; Paracuellos and Nevado 2010). Predation on chicks by black rats Rattus rattus
has a negative impact at some breeding colonies (Jones et al.
2008). Nevertheless Audouin's Gull shows a very nomadic breeding site selection and high dispersal rates from year to year, probably avoiding large densities of Yellow-legged Gulls (Oro and Matnez-Abran 2007; Genovart et al
. 2003; Martnez-Abran et al
. 2003). Peregrines Falco peregrinus
, other raptors, some herons and snakes can also prey on adults and nests but only accidentally and locally (Oro 1997, 1996). Very high levels of mercury and other pollutants are found in this species (Sanpera et al
. 2007), partly due to the consumption of discards (Arcos et al
. 2002), thus posing a potential threat, although no negative effects have been demonstrated. Current marine wind-farm projects, particularly around the main breeding colony (Ebro Delta), could also represent a serious threat. Overgrazing of some islets by goats in the east of its breeding range may reduce breeding success. Natal and breeding dispersal are extremely high ensuring genetic mixing and buffering against bad local environmental conditions through emigration and colonisation (Oro and Ruxton 2001; Oro et al
. 2004). Conservation Actions Underway
CMS Appendix I and II. A European action plan was published in 1996. The ecology of this species, particularly its breeding and foraging behaviour and demography and population dynamics, has been extensively studied. Lebanon prepared an action plan to restore the breeding population back to Palm Islands Nature reserve. Several LIFE Nature projects have been implemented between 1992 and 2006 in Spain and Italy, contributing to successful recolonisation of breeding islands and development of safe line-fishing techniques. Control of invasive black rats Rattus rattus
has been effective at some colonies (Jones et al.
2008). Culling of Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michehellis
was conducted from 2000 to 2009 on Alborn Island, Spain, and demonstrated immediate local benefits (Paracuellos and Nevado 2010). However, even in small, remote colonies, culling needs to be continuous to avoid a return to the original situation (Paracuellos and Nevado 2010).Conservation Actions Proposed
Continue to monitor breeding colonies. Identify appropriate actions to mitigate against the key threats. Implement strict fishery management policies in the species's range. Increase the area of suitable coastal habitat that is protected from development and degradation. Enforce laws designed to minimise marine pollution. Implement measures to reduce mortality in fishing gear, perhaps facilitated by legislation. Ensure regulation of the river Ebro benefits the species.
Related state of the world's birds case studies
Arcos, J. M.; Louzao, M.; Oro, D. 2008. Fishery ccosystem impacts and management in the Mediterranean: seabirds point of view. In: Nielsen, J.; Dodson, J.; Friedland, K.; Hamon, T.; Hughes, N.; Musick, J.; Verspoor, E. (ed.), Proceedings of the Fourth World Fisheries Congress: Reconciling Fisheries with Conservation, pp. 587-596. American Fisheries Society, Symposium 49, Bethesda, MD, USA.
Arcos, J. M.; Ruiz, X.; Bearhop, S.; Furness, R. W. 2002. Mercury levels in seabirds and their fish prey at the Ebro Delta (NW Mediterranean): the role of trawler discards as a source of contamination. Marine Ecology Progress Series 232: 281-290.
Arcos, J.M. and Oro, D. 1996. Changes in foraging range of Audouin's gulls Larus audouinii in relation to a trawler moratorium in the western Mediterranean. Colonial Waterbirds 19: 128-131.
Barov, B and Derh, M. A. 2011. Review of The Implementation Of Species Action Plans for Threatened Birds in the European Union 2004-2010. Final report. BirdLife International For the European Commission.
Barov, B and Derhé, M. A. 2011. Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii species action plan implementation review. In: Barov, B and Derhé, M. A. (eds), Review of The Implementation Of Species Action Plans for Threatened Birds in the European Union 2004-2010. Final report. BirdLife International For the European Commission.
Belda, E. J.; Sanchez, A. 2001. Seabird mortality on longline fisheries in the western mediterranean: factors affecting bycatch and proposed mitigating measures. Biological Conservation 98: 357-363.
BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.
Bonaccorsi, G. 2003. Le Goéland D'audouin Larus audouinii dans le Golfe D'ajaccio: approche éthologique et écologique de 1980 à 2002. Alauda 71: 84-87.
Charalambidou, I.; Gücel, S. 2008. First survey of Audouin's Gull, Larus audouinii (Payraudeau, 1826), colonies at Kleidhes Islands, Cyprus. Zoology in the Middle East 45: 29-34.
Cooper, J.; Baccetti, N.; Belda, E. J.; Borg, J. J.; Oro, D.; Papaconstantinou, C.; Sánchez, A. 2003. Seabird mortality from longline fishing in the Mediterranean Sea and Macaronesian waters: a review and a way forward. Scientia Marina 67: 57-64.
Cramp, S.; Simmons, K. E. L. 1983. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic vol. III: waders to gulls. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Criado, J. Ed. 1997. Revision of the International Action Plan for the Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii.
del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 1996. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Genovart, M.; Oro, D.; Bonhomme, F. 2003. Genetic and morphological differentiation between the two largest breeding colonies of Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii. Ibis 145: 448-456.
Gutirrez, R.; Guinart, E. 2008. The Ebro Delta Audouin's Gull colony and vagrancy potential to northwest Europe. British Birds 101(8): 443-447.
Hoogendoorm, W. and Mackrill, E.J. 1987. Audouin's gull in southwestern Palearctic. Dutch Birding 9(4): 99-107.
Jones, H.P., Tershy, B.R., Zavaleta, E.S., Croll, D.A., Keitt, B.S., Finkelstein, M.E. and Howald, G.R. 2008. Severity of the effects of invasive rats on seabirds: a global review. Conservation Biology 22(1): 16-26.
Lambertini, M. 1996. International action plan for Audouin's Gull (Larus audouinii). In: Heredia, B.; Rose, L.; Painter, M. (ed.), Globally threatened birds in Europe: action plans, pp. 289-301. Council of Europe and BirdLife International, Strasbourg.
Mañosa, S.; Oro, D.; Ruiz, X. 2004. Activity patterns and foraging behaviour of Audouin’s gulls at the Ebro Delta, NW Mediterranean. Scientia Marina 68: 605-614.
Martínez-Abraín, A., Oro, D., Forero, M. G. & Conesa, D. 2003. Modeling temporal and spatial colony-site dynamics in a long-lived seabird. Population Ecology 45: 133-139.
Olsen, K. M.; Larsson, H. 2004. Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America. Christopher Helm, London.
Onmus, O. 2006. Current status of the Audouin´s gull Larus audouinii Eastern Population.
Oro, D. 1996. Are migrating peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus a threat to breeding Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii at the Ebro Delta? Colonial Waterbirds 19: 270-272.
Oro, D. 1997. Montpellier Snakes Malpolon monspessulanus as predators of Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii chicks. Butlletí del Grup Català d'Anellament 14: 65-67.
Oro, D.; Baccetti, N.; Boukhalfa, D.; Eken, G.; El Hili, A.; Goutner, V.; Karauz, S.; Papaconstantinou, C.; Recorbet, B.; Ruiz, X. 2000. Current breeding distribution and status of Audouin's gulls Larus audouinii in the Mediterranean. In: Sultana, J.; Yésou, P. (ed.), Monitoring and Conservation of Birds, Mammals and Sea Turtles of the Mediterranean and Black Seas, pp. 69-80. BirdLife Malta.
Oro, D.; Cam, E.; Pradel, R.; Martínez-Abrain, A. 2004. Influence of food availability on demography and local population dynamics in a long-lived seabird. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B 271: 387-396.
Oro, D.; Martínez-Abraín, A. 2007. Deconstructing myths on large gulls and their impact on threatened species. Animal Conservation 10: 117-126.
Oro, D.; Martínez-Abraín, A.; Paracuellos, M.; Nevado, J.C.; Genovart, M. 2006. Influence of density-dependence on predator-prey seabird interactions at large spatio-temporal scales. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B 273: 379-383.
Oro, D.; Pradel, R. 2000. Determinants of local recruitment in a growing colony of Audouin's gull. Journal of Animal Ecology 69: 119-132.
Oro, D.; Pradel, R.; Lebreton, J.-D. 1999. Food availability and nest predation influence life history traits in Audouin's gull, Larus audouinii. Oecologia 118: 438-445.
Oro, D.; Ruxton, G. D. 2001. The formation and growth of seabird colonies: Audouin's gull as a case study. Journal of Animal Ecology 70: 527-535.
Paracuellos, M.; Nevado, J. C. 2010. Culling Yellow-legged Gulls Larus michahellis benefits Audouin's Gulls Larus audouinii at a small and remote colony. Bird Study 57(1): 26-30.
Pedrocchi, V. Oro, D., Gonzalez-Solis, J., Ruiz, X., Jover, L. 2002. Differences in diet between the two largest breeding colonies of Andouin's gulls: the effects of fishery activities. Scientia Marina 66(3): 313-320.
Recorbet, B. & Culioli, J.-M. 2009. Goland d'Audouin Larus audouinii. In: De Seynes, A., Coordinateurs-espece. 2010. Les oiseaux nicheurs rares et menacs en France en 2009. [Rare breeding birds in France in 2009.]. Ornithos 17(3): 137-168.
Recorbet, B.; Le Dru, A. 2002. Le Goéland d'Audouin Larus audouinii à Aspretto-Ajaccio (Corse): gestion pour une pérennisation de l'espèce sur un site artificiel. Alauda 70: 483-488.
Rubinic, B.; Vrezec, A. 2001. Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii, a new breeding gull species in the Adriatic sea (Croatia). Acrocephalus 21: 219-222.
Sanpera, C.; Ruiz, X.; Moreno, R.; Jover, L.; Waldron, S. 2007. Mercury and stable isotopes in feathers of Audouin's Gulls as indicators of feeding habits and migratory connectivity. Condor 109(2): 268-275.
Sériot, J. 1996-1998. Following numbers of rare and endangered breeding birds in France 1995, 1996 and 1997.
Tavecchia, G., Pradel, R., Genovart, M., Oro, D., 2007. Density-dependent parameters and demographic equilibrium in open populations. Oikos 116: 1481–1492.
Travichon, S. 2004. Cycle de reproduction du Goéland d'Audouin Larus audouinii sur un site artificiel en Corse (France). Alauda 72: 227-233.
Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)
International Action Plan
View photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection
Text account compilers
Anderson, O., Bird, J., Calvert, R., Capper, D., Harding, M., Hatchett, J., O'Brien, A., Peet, N., Pilgrim, J., Derh, M.
Arcos, J., Carboneras, C., Eken, G., Omnus, O., Oro, D., Papaconstantinou, C., Anderson, O., Portolou, D., Baccetti, N.
IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.
BirdLife International (2013) Species factsheet: Larus audouinii. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 09/12/2013.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2013) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 09/12/2013.
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
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