Mediterranean gull

Mediterranean gull

Mediterranean gull (summer) ©John Bridges

An adult Mediterranean gull in summer plumage glides through the sky, showing its white wing tips, black hood and bright red beak

Mediterranean gull (summer plumage) © Pete Richman

A single Mediterranean gull stands on a muddy lake shore, surrounded by black-headed gulls.

Mediterranean gull (summer plumage) with black-headed gulls © Tom Hibbert

A Mediterranean gull in winter plumage stands on a rock

Mediterranean gull (winter plumage) © Pete Richman

Mediterranean gull

Scientific name: Larus melanocephalus
Once a rare visitor to the UK, this striking gull is now found nesting here in large colonies.

Species information


Length: 37-40cm
Wingspan: 94-102cm

Conservation status

Increasingly common breeding bird. Classified in the UK as Amber under the Birds of Conservation Concern 5: the Red List for Birds (2021). Protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981.

When to see

All year


In the mid 20th century, the Mediterranean gull was considered a rare visitor to the UK. However, over the latter half of the century, sightings became increasingly common as Mediterranean gulls spread across Europe from their core range around the Black Sea. They first nested in the UK in 1968 and by 2017 the population was estimated at 1,200 pairs. They often nest amongst colonies of black-headed gulls on coastal wetlands.

As the name suggests, the main wintering area for much of the European population is in the Mediterranean, but many birds will spend the winter in the UK. They can often be found at coastal sites, or joining large gull roosts on inland lakes and reservoirs.

How to identify

The Mediterranean gull is very similar to the black-headed gull, but is slightly larger and has a shorter, heavier beak. In summer, adults have a very pale grey back (paler than a black-headed gull), pure white wing tips, and a jet black hood covering their whole head - much darker than the mask of a black-headed gull. Their legs and beak are a bright, blood red. In winter, the legs are duller and the black hood is replaced by a dark mask that extends back from the eye and over the top of the head. Mediterranean gulls often give away their presence with their distinctive call: a nasal, slightly whining 'yeah'.


The largest breeding colonies are found in the south and south-east of England, with more scattered breeding records elsewhere in the UK, including Northern Ireland. Found more widely in winter.

Did you know?

The first pair of Mediterranean gulls to nest in Britain raised two young in Hampshire in 1968. Just 50 years later, another site in Hampshire recorded an astonishing 1,736 nesting pairs in one summer.