Larus melanocephalus

Range & Status

W. Palearctic; in Britain and Ireland a former vagrant (with ten records up to 1940)

becoming increasingly frequent as species spread westward across Europe from the Black Sea region, forming tiny satellite colonies within Black-headed Gull colonies, particularly around the southern and eastern shores of the Baltic. First reported nesting in UK in Hampshire in 1968 and now some 15-20 pairs nest within Black-headed Gull colonies in SE England, but nesting is still sporadic. Mixed pairings with Black-headed Gulls are not infrequent \endash two out of 70 birds on St. John' s Lake in late July 2008 were considered to be hybrids.

Regional Distribution

Cornwall: first record was 1960 (St. Ives) since when numbers increased annually and is reported from all parts of Cornwall in very small numbers. Isles of Scilly: much rarer, although one or two reported annually in recent years.

Habitat & Ecology

Since the mid 1980s increasing numbers arrive from the ' Low countries' (chiefly from Belgium according to their colour rings) from late June through July to undergo post-breeding moult at two key sites \endash St. John' s Lake (peak 35-45 in August) and the Camel (peak 40-50 in September/October); this later peak on the Camel could be St. John' s birds moving on after moult. In 2008 record counts of 70 on St. John' s Lake and 80 on the Camel were made in late July. It is significant that the occasional bird has been found attending breeding colonies of Black-headed Gulls at Colliford and Crowdy indicating potential for future breeding in Cornwall.

Threats

Predation at nesting sites, otherwise few.

Conservation

General monitoring of numbers and keeping a close watch on Black-headed Gull breeding sites.