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Mediterranean Gull

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A rare breeding species in Poole Harbour and a scarce wintering species, especially around Weymouth. 


Photograph by: 
Hamish Murray

Mediterranean Gull; a black headed gull

Post date: Thursday, 9 April, 2015 - 00:00

Once you establish that the black-headed gull would be more appropriately called the chocolate-faced gull it leaves the question "What is this gull with a really black head that you see on the coast of Dorset, mainly around Poole Harbour and, in winter, at Radipole?" This is the Mediterranean gull and it generally inhabits the coasts of Europe, especially the around Mediterranean and the Iberian peninsular and, in recent times, the southern coast of Britain. It was once only rarely seen here. I started bird watching back in the 1970's and when one arrived near us at Titchfield Haven in Hampshire it caused quite a stir and ended up being featured on the front of a book about the Birds of Hampshire. The Dorset Bird Report (2007) describes it as a rare breeding species in Poole Harbour and a scarce wintering species, especially around Weymouth. This group I photographed were nesting on the lagoon on Brownsea Island. 

Like the black-head gull it loses that black head plumage in winter and it becomes a bit more difficult to tell the two species apart. The 'Med' does not have the same vivid red bill and legs of the black-headed gull.


Mediterranean Gull in Dorset: what your tweets tell us ...

Post date: Saturday, 12 January, 2019 - 18:50

The mediterranean gull is one of those species, like the little egret, that was a real rarity here forty or so years ago but are now well established here and breeding in favoured locations. I remember going to Titchfield Haven in Hampshire one Saturday in the early 1970s and was surprised to find thirty or so 'birders' there. On enquiry I discovered they had come to see one of the first mediterranean gulls to be recorded in Hampshire; a photograph of it subsequently appeared on a book produced by the Hampshire Ornithological Society with details of all the species recorded in Hampshire. I think the book was called "The Revised LIst of Hampshire Birds"; sadly my copy has long since gone from my library as I must have loaned it to someone and never got it back.

The 'med' gull is now resident in Dorset and breeds on the Brownsea lagoon and possibly at other sites too. As the weekly chart shows rarely a week goes by without at least one report however it can be seen from the chart that there are peaks during the spring and autumn migration periods which shows our resident numbers are substantially inflated by migrant birds. This seems especially true in 'autumn' from week 25 at the beginning of July through until week 31 at the end of August. In these weeks it seems a large number of juvenile birds are recorded amongst the adults so we are probably seeing the dispersal from nesting sites of fledged families who are out learning the ropes with their parents.

The distribution map shows just how widespread the mediterranean gull now is in Dorset with records from all of the regular coastal spots as well as from some inland sites and even as far inland as Cranborne.

The nesting colony on Brownsea Island is by far the best place to see them; take the boat across in June or July and see them on their nests and feeding their young just a matter of feet away from you.


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Mediterranean Gull
Scientific Name Larus melanocephalus
Status Locally frequent
Interest Level
Species Family Gulls and Skuas
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
Preferred Environment
  • Harbours, estuaries and lagoons
  • Open sea
Look for A bird resembling a black-headed gull but with a truly black head
Additional Identification Notes
  • Difficult to tell apart from the black-headed gull in winter unless you ar experienced
  • In summer they have a jet black cap as opposed to the black-headed gull's chocolate brown face
  • Now nesting on Brownsea lagoon and at various other sites on the south coast
Similar Species