Identification: Novice birdwatchers are often perplexed when they see gulls in winter with mostly white heads which are called Black-headed Gulls, then even more puzzled when you explain that in summer the heads actually become brown, although they often look black from a distance. In summer plumage, the dark hood only just covers the face and doesn't go down the nape as in the other dark-headed gulls. In winter plumage you have to look carefully at the distribution of black on the head and compare it with the dark eye-mask of a Mediterranean Gull and the sooty skull-cap of a Little Gull. Black-headed Gulls in all plumages have a white forewing, making a triangular white panel in the leading edge of the primaries.
Habitat: Breeds on coastal and inland marshes, moorland and gravel pits. Winters on estuaries, lakes, reservoirs, coasts and rubbish tips.
Distribution: The commonest British gull, found virtually everywhere.
Widespread and common in many parts of Europe.
Population: 167000 breeding pairs in Britain, a further 53 800 in Ireland. This is one of the most 'inland' of the gulls, often seen far from the coast. Winter figures are probably in excess of 1900000 birds.
About 2 million pairs in Europe.