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What is a Black-Headed Gull?

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  • Written By: Steve R.
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 30 April 2018
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A black-headed gull, Chroicocephalus ridibundus, is a medium-sized gull commonly found in Europe and Asia. The adult bird is 15 to 17 inches (about 38 to 44 centimeters) in length with a wing span of 37 to 41 inches (about 94 to 105 centimeters). Found in a variety of habitats, mostly near water, the black-headed gull is a colonial creature that has a life span of approximately 30 years.

Despite its name, the adult black-headed gull has a dark brown hood during the summer. Its nape, neck, and underbelly are white and its eyes are dark brown. The bird's legs and bill are red. During the winter, the black-headed gull's brown head turns mostly white, with a few dark vertical streaks.

The bird can be found in southern Greenland, throughout most of Europe, and in central Asia. In North America, the gull is located mostly along the Atlantic Coast, including Labrador, Nova Scotia, and New York State. During breeding season, the black-headed gull makes its habitat near rivers, lakes, swamps, and marshes. In the winter, the bird typically migrates to warmer areas and makes its home near bays, wetlands, coasts, and estuaries. The gull sometimes resides along sand dunes and beaches, and in Europe, the bird can often be found in parks, looking for food.

The diet of the gull consists mostly of insects, fish, and mice. The bird also eats seeds and berries. While in flight, the bird often nabs insects. In the water, the gull grabs its food while swimming or dunking its head under the water. In addition, the opportunistic gull will steal food or even eggs of other birds.

Black-headed gulls build their nests out of vegetation on the ground and will often build nests close to each other in colonies. Territorial creatures, both males and females will build their nests together and defend their home against other creatures. Breeding begins at the end of March, and the birds lay eggs in early spring.

Female gulls typically lay one to four eggs, which take less than a month to hatch. The young birds are fed by both parents and remain in the nest for about a month before they are able to fly. Young black-headed gulls are mostly brown in color with a black stripe along the top of the tail.

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