Body length: 37 – 40 cm. Wingspan: 94 – 105 cm. Weight: 220-350 g. Life expectancy: 15 years.

The Mediterranean Gull is slightly larger and bulkier than the black-headed gull with a heavier bill and longer, darker legs. The breeding plumage adult is a distinctive white gull, with a very pale grey mantle and wings with white primary feathers without black tips. The black hood extends down the nape and shows distinct white eye crescents. The blunt tipped, parallel sided, dark red bill has a black subterminal band. The non breeding adult is similar but the hood is reduced to an extensive dusky “bandit” mask through the eye. This bird takes two years to reach maturity. First year birds have a black terminal tail band and more black areas in the upperwings, but have pale underwings.

This is a noisy species, especially in colonies with nasal “iya” call.


Distribution and Habitat


Western parallelepiped species. One of the rapidly expanding species in Western Europe in recent years. Before being restricted to the Black Sea (mostly on the Black Sea coast of Ukraine) and the eastern Mediterranean, this species has now spread across much of Europe: the Britain, Ireland, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Hungary and the Balkans.

Stable, migrating and wintering species. Winters in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea, the Atlantic coasts of Northwestern Europe and Northwest Africa Spring migration is in March-May, and autumn in August-September.

The Small Black-Headed Gull inhabits salty, brackish and alkaline lakes, lagoons, seashells and open sea, sandy beaches, islands and dunes, canals, salted terrains, arable lands and pastures, fishponds, salt marshes, freshwater lakes, swamps, wetlands, wastewater basins.

In Bulgaria it is a nesting, passing and wintering species. The Small Black-Headed Gull is one of the numerous species occurring in the Burgas lakes during autumn migration. This gull prefers the Burgas Lake (Vaya). In some years it nests except in the Vaya and at the Atanasovsko Lake.



The Small Black-Headed Gull is opportunistically omnivorous and feeds on insects, crustaceans, small fish and ravens, worms, even garbage, offal and carrion. In general, insects represent the majority of its regime. But fish and seafood are also valued. Fly over the surface of the water, diving and boiling the booty. Sometimes chase the victim, flying over the ground.



Breeding of sandy, dykes and artificial islands for waterfowl in dense colonies, with adjacent pairs 60 cm apart. The nest is a shallow depression located on the ground in rare vegetation, thickets or reed beds near water. It lays 3 eggs, one generation a year in May-June. Incubation lasts from 23 to 25 days provided by the couple. Young birds fly after 35 to 40 days but reach maturity in two years.


Conservation Status

The Small Black-Headed Gull is a species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterfowl (AEWA) applies. In Bulgaria it is protected under the Biological Diversity Act. Included in the Bulgarian Red Book.





Small Black-Headed Gull (Mediterranean Gull) (Larus melanocephalus, Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)