John Pilkington's picture

Black-headed Gull

Observed: 31st July 2012 By: John PilkingtonJohn Pilkington’s reputation in BirdsJohn Pilkington’s reputation in BirdsJohn Pilkington’s reputation in BirdsJohn Pilkington’s reputation in Birds

Seen wading at edge of Dart Estuary at low tide.

Species interactions

No interactions present.


ophrys's picture


Not a Common Gull. Difficult to tell whether it is Black-headed or Mediterranean. It looks like a Black-headed to me, but the black in the primaries is not visible. It could be Mediterranean, though, as they have white primaries. Whichever, it is in winter plumage.


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RoyW's picture


Definitely a Black-headed Gull.
In would be unusual for a Med Gull to show such a clearly separated black spot behind the eye. I have seen quite a few moulting BHGs that appear to lack black in the wing tips recently.

bobthebirder's picture


This is a tricky one!

On the balance, I would say that this photo shows more med gull features than black-headed: the wing tips are white, the back is very pale, the legs are very dark and long.

On the other hand the head does show a classic black-headed pattern. The bill size is an easy way to distinguish the two; med gulls always have much bulkier bills. But this angle makes the proportions of the bill difficult to determine.

I'm staying on the fence...

Bob Ford

ahb's picture

Possible hybrid?

I'm having similar thoughts to Bob Ford. Having thought Med Gull at first I then felt that Black-headed might have been right.

Now I am totally confused - but perhaps a hybrid of the two is not out of the question given the tendency for mixed pairs to form where Med Gull numbers are still low?

One of these birds I wish I had seen.


Alan Brampton (Benson)

bobthebirder's picture


I suspect that if you had seen it Alan, it would have been immediately obvious as to which species it was. One of the problems of making judgements from a single photo.

John, I don't suppose you have any other photos of it?

Bob Ford

John Pilkington's picture

Other Pictures


Very sorry, no more pictures. I spotted the bird whilst pausing for a minute during a coastal walk. It didn't hang around for long, either. Had I had more knowledge of what it might/might not have been, I would have tried to take some more.


RoyW's picture

Gull ID.

I still can't see any reason at all to suspect that this is anything other than a normal Black-headed Gull.

It really is not unusual to see see Black-headed Gulls (and other adult gulls) which appear to lack black in the wing tips at this time of year - especially in photos where the wing tips are not quite sharp, which means that any black that is present may be over looked. The legs looked caked in mud to me, and the mantle colour is no paler than I would expect.

ophrys's picture


I agree. As I said originally, the general appearance of the gull very much says Black-headed. Moulting adults lose some of the primaries and so the amount of black in the wing tip is very much reduced (effectively lost in heavy moult).

It does show the difficulty of making an ID from a single photo, though.


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John Pilkington's picture

Identification Change

Thanks to all for the feedback. Have changed the heading to Black-headed Gull in recognition of the consensus.

orchid_b's picture

This is so a Med Gull. No

This is so a Med Gull. No moulting BHG could hide the black on its primaries that well and also have the gleaming pale rather than grey tertials that this bird shows. It is often those near-white tertial tips that I pick out at a distance.

The bill looks obviously heavy and droop-tipped - check the other pics of BH Gulls on Ispot if nothing else, with their dagger-like straight very sharp-pointed bills.

I am not sure what you all mean by 'structure' - structure of what? The head? Yes, Meds can appear to have a more angular head sometimes but not always. The black spot? I don't think the position rel to the eye differs much, although you may be thinking of the 'mask' that some Meds get. This looks perfectly Ok for Med.

Jamie from Briantspuddle