Black-headed Gull – Larus ridibundus
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Class: Aves
- Order: Charadriiformes
- Family: Laridae
- Genre: Larus
- Species: Larus ridibundus
Average body length 38 cm, silvery on the back, with dark tan head and wing tips, and white on the rest of the body. In winter, the head is completely white, with a black spot in the ear region.
The breeding population in Europe is very large, ranging from 1,340,000 to 1,990,000 pairs. In Romania, the breeding population is between 4,000 and 10,000 pairs and is on an increasing trend, with passage flocks of 100,000-300,000 birds.
Living environment and biology of the species
The species nests mainly inland. Prefers shallow, temporarily flooded wetlands with tall vegetation. Colonies form on the shores of lakes, lagoons, slow-flowing rivers, in deltas, mounded marshes, but may nest in raised areas of salt marshes, on dunes and islands near coasts. It also uses artificial habitats such as puddles, drains, swamps, canals and flooded areas. It can also nest in drained marshes, sand dunes, coastal areas and rocky islands. In winter it occurs mainly in coastal habitats, with a preference for estuaries with sandy or muddy shores, and generally avoids rocky or exposed coastal areas. During this period it may occur inland visiting arable land, wet grassland, parks, sewage works, water reservoirs and roosts on sandy and gravelly lake shores. In the wild, the average lifespan is 11 years.
Sexual maturity is reached at the age of two. Feeds in various habitats, mainly on animal food. It watches tractors sowing, visits landfill sites and dumping sites for household waste along rivers. It catches live animals, but doesn’t turn down carrion either. It hunts in April and May in high-density colonies of several thousand pairs, often with other gull and chub species. In these colonies each pair defends its territory. In the mating ritual, the male feeds the female. The behaviour of individuals in the colony is influenced by complex rituals, accompanied by loud calls.
It builds a very simple nest on the ground or between plants. The clutch of 2-3 eggs is hatched by both parents for 23-26 days. The chicks do not leave the nest immediately, but by the age of 10 days they are already moving away from it. Both parents are involved in feeding and defending the young. They leave the nest for good after 33-37 days, when they can fly. A laughing gull’s prey produces only one brood per year.
Threats and conservation measures
The species is threatened by habitat loss and alteration, pollution and poor water management. It is recommended to respect restrictions in riparian and coastal areas, including those related to construction, management of water levels in aquatic ecosystems in accordance with the ecological needs of the species, management of waste and wastewater around wetlands, assessment of pollution levels in the wetland and implementation of programmes to improve water quality.
Anthropogenic activities near colonies can be limited by creating a buffer zone of at least 50 m, where fish farmers should be prohibited from nesting. It is important to encourage the use of selective and low toxicity agrochemicals and to avoid the use of treated seeds on neighbouring land. It is necessary to inventory breeding, migration, feeding and aggregation areas important for the conservation of the species. It is also useful to promote studies on the biology of the species.
- Fântână Ciprian, Kovács Istvan, Benkő Zoltán, Daròczi Szilárd, Domșa Cristian, Veres-Szászka Judit (editors), 2022, Atlas of bird species of community interest in Romania, 2nd edition – Love birds, save nature!, Project financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Large Infrastructure Operational Programme 2014-2020, Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests – Biodiversity Directorate, scientific coordination Romanian Ornithological Society and Association for the Protection of Birds and Nature Milvus Group, produced by EXCLUS PROD SRL, p. 250.
Radu Dimitrie, 1983, Small Ornithological Atlas – Birds of the World, Albatros Publishing House, Bucharest, p. 84.