Larus ridibundus Linnaeus, 1776, England. Monotypic.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
English: Black-headed gull; French: Mouette rieuse; German: Lachmцwe; Spanish: Gaviota Reidora.
14.5–17 in (37–43 cm); 0.4–0.7 lb (185–325 g). Small gull with a dark chocolate brown frontal hood, white eye crescents larger toward back of eye, and blood-red bill during breeding season. Gray mantle, black wings, and white neck, throat, and belly. Newly arriving birds at breeding colonies have pinkish bloom to breast that fades quickly. Nonbreeding adult has white head with dusky spot on ear coverts. Juvenile has rich buff to darker brown markings on upperparts and upperwing coverts.
Southern Greenland and Iceland through most of Europe to Central Asia and extreme southeast Russia and northeast China. Marginal, but possibly increasing in North America. Winters in West and East Africa, Malaysia, and Philippines.
Nests mainly in marshes and on sand dunes among grasses of Palearctic; always near water, chiefly inland and along coasts. Winters in marshes, rivers, and along coasts, but not pelagically (in the open sea).
Diurnal, territorial, forages and nests in groups of conspecifics or with terns.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Relies mainly on aquatic and terrestrial insects, earthworms, and marine invertebrates, as well as fish. Also eats fruits and grains. Feeds by a variety of methods, including walking, swimming, seizing objects from water or land, foot paddling, or by plunge-diving for fish, often behind fishing boats.
Monogamous, high colony-site and nest-site fidelity, returns to site in late February to May. Most nest in small colonies of less than 100 pairs, some as large as 10,000 pairs. Usual clutch size of two to three eggs. Incubation period 22–26 days. Fledging period 32–35 days. Limited post-fledging care. Breeds when two to three years old.
Not threatened, although often displaced from traditional breeding colonies on sand habitats by herring gulls. Eggs still collected for food; some meat eaten.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
Used extensively as a source of eggs in the past, when sections of colonies were “owned” by individuals who carefully managed them for sustained yield. Some colonies in England and elsewhere maintained for several centuries.
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