This is the common gull over much of Europe - but not the Common Gull. Neither is it the Laughing Gull - but that is what its Latin name means. Nor, during the winter does it have a black head and, if you look hard in the summer you will realise it should best be called the 'Dark-chocolate-headed Gull'.
These are quite small birds and familiar through the year on the shore, by rivers and embankments, following the plough, foraging for scraps in the street or breeding at their noisy colonies in marshland on the shore or by a moorland tarn. There are a number of black headed gulls but the great thing about this one is that, once out of juvenile brownish plumage, it has a gleaming white leading edge to the outer wing - diagnostic. The bill, in the breeding season, and legs are dark red. All sorts of calls are given but you can see why Linnaeus called it 'ridibundus'.
This is a gregarious bird and nesting, feeding and roosting flocks which can be very large. Breeding takes place from Iceland right round to Kamchatka and birds winter South to Central Africa and the South-East Asia with some regularly along the Eastern seaboard of North America well past Newfoundland. The British and Irish breeding population probably exceeds 200,000 pairs.
A very widespread small gull of the Old World - look for white leading edge to the wing.
Length 350 mm Closed wing 300 mm Weight 300 gms
A Bird On! Sketch by Chris Mead
Copyright © 1996 by Jacobi Jayne & Company and Chris Mead