Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus

(last update: 19-03-2014)

Tim Audenaert
Maarten van Kleinwee


BHG 1cy May
BHG 1cy June
BHG 1cy July
BHG 1cy August
BHG 1cy September
BHG 1cy October
BHG 1cy November
BHG 1cy December

BHG 2cy January
BHG 2cy Febuary
BHG 2cy March
BHG 2cy April
BHG 2cy May
BHG 2cy June
BHG 2cy July
BHG 2cy August
BHG 2cy September
BHG 2cy October
BHG 2cy November
BHG 2cy December

BHG adult January
BHG adult Febuary
BHG adult March
BHG adult April
BHG adult May
BHG adult June
BHG adult July
BHG adult August
BHG adult September
BHG adult October
BHG adult November
BHG adult December




Black-headed Gull - 1cy September


The Black-headed Gull is a small gull, common and widespread in Europe and Asia all the way to the east through the Russian steppe-belt into Kamtchatka. It winters south along the west coast of Africa, the Mediterranean and the east coast of Africa, the Arabian peninsular, India, Malaysia and the Philippines. A key characteristic is the white on the outer primaries which is very distinctive in flight, even from a great distance.
The Black-headed Gull reaches the adult plumage in second winter: 3cy (third-calendar year) birds are hardly distinguishable from adults.

Most of the description on these pages follows from P.J. Grant: "Gulls, a guide to identification".

1cy Black-headed Gull in September

Immediately after a Black-headed Gull abandons its nest, the post-juvenile moult begins (moult into "first winter" or "formative" plumage). This phase starts with the mantle and scapular feathers and is normally completed by September. During this moult, the following parts are replaced:

  • Mantle and scapular feathers are replaced by gray feathers (as adult), some juvenile feathers are retained
  • The head turns white with a black ear spot, combined with a faint band across the crown, as well as a faint band from eye to eye across the top of the head
  • Faintly gray shine extending from the mantle to the lower neck and sides of the breast
  • The body turns white
  • The bill and legs turn (yellow-)orange by the autumn
  • The wing and tail feathers are not replaced and therefore remain first-generation; sometimes though, some lesser and medium coverts are moulted to second-generation, gray feathers (as adult)

In flight, the dark carpal bar on the upper wing stands out, formed by the lesser- and medium coverts. The trailing edge is black, similar to the tail edge (the outer tail feathers of some individuals are completely white). The primaries have a white base, extending in a drop-shape to a black tip. The outer primaries usually have small white tips and can have a large amount of black in the outer web, thickest on the mid-part.

Black-headed Gulls in September, compared by age group

1cy Black-headed Gull in July. (85237 bytes) image to follow 1cy Black-headed Gull in July. (85237 bytes)
1st calendar year 2nd calendar year Adult



1cy Black-headed Gull in July. (85237 bytes)Black-headed Gull 1cy.
September 5, 2009, Leiden, The Netherlands (52.157N, 4.494E)
Photo: Maarten van Kleinwee.
1cy Black-headed Gull in July. (85237 bytes)Black-headed Gull 1cy
September 23, 2009, Barneveld waste dump, The Netherlands (52.166N, 5.621E)
Photo: Maarten van Kleinwee.