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Mediterranean gull (Larus melanocephalus)

The following has been adapted from original text by Matthew Parsons in Seabird Populations of Britain and Ireland (with permission from A&C Black, London).

 

The Mediterranean gull is the most recent addition to the species of seabirds breeding in the UK. It has increased as a breeding species in recent decades, but as recently as Seabird 2000, its population in these islands numbered little more than 100 pairs. However, by 2010, there were over 600–700 nesting pairs, mostly on the south and south-east coasts of England.

The range of the Mediterranean gull has expanded markedly over the last 50 years. A westward expansion started in Hungary, where it was breeding regularly by 1953, then into Germany and Belgium during the 1960s and the Netherlands by 1970. Range expansion also occurred in an eastward direction during the 1970s and 1980s. The first breeding occurrence in Britain was in 1968, at Needs Ore Point (Hampshire). Thereafter, a pair bred at Dungeness (Kent), in 1979, increasing to two pairs by 1985. A site in north Kent was colonised in 1983, which later became established as one of the major colonies in England. Also during this period, a handful of other breeding attempts were made, including pairings with black-headed gulls. The first recorded breeding attempt in Northern Ireland was in Antrim in 1995.

Conservation status

Mediterranean gull is currently identified as a conservation priority in the following:

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International importance

UK Population

Biogeographic Population

% World Population

110 AON*

0.1 (Europe excl. Russia & Turkey)

0.1

*AON = Apparently Occupied Nests

The UK population figure was derived from data in Mitchell, P.I., Newton, S.F., Ratcliffe, N. and Dunn, T.E. (eds.) 2004. Seabird Populations of Britain and Ireland. Poyser, London.  This was also the source of figures for the Biogeographic and World populations.

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UK population estimates and change 1969–2002 (census data)

 

Operation Seafarer    

(1969-70)

Seabird Colony Register    

(1985-88)

Seabird 2000    

(1998–2002)

UK Population estimate (AON*)

0

1

110

% change since previous census   

n/a

n/a

+11,000

* AON = Apparently Occupied Nests

For census results for individual countries and Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man see under relevant sections below.

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Distribution/abundance

The Seabird 2000 census provides the most comprehensive recent assessment of the distribution and abundance of breeding seabirds. Numbers of Mediterranean gull found in different regions, and a map showing the location and size of colonies, is provided in the Seabird 2000 Mediterranean gull results page.

The locations sampled during the annual Seabird Monitoring Programme provide some information on distribution and are accessible via the Seabird Monitoring Programme online database.

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Annual abundance and productivity by geographical area

With reference to the regional accounts below please note the following:

Breeding abundance: graphs of abundance index with 95% confidence limits are only shown for a region where the trend produced has been deemed accurate (see methods of analysis). Where a trend was thought to be inaccurate, graphs of abundance at major colonies in a region may be shown instead, particularly if such colonies hold greater than 10% of the regional population, are monitored frequently and may thus help illustrate regional population fluctuations outwith national censuses. Occasionally, too few data have been collected regionally to produce either of these.

Productivity: graphs of productivity are only shown if analysis of breeding success data produced a significant result for regional and/or year effects (again see methods of analysis). If results were not significant, then a regional mean productivity value is given. However, on some occasions, too few data are available from which to provide a meaningful average. Furthermore, for 11 species where the quality of monitoring data available was considered high, population viability analysis was undertaken at the UK level and the results of this are also reported.

 

United Kingdom

Breeding abundance

Mediterranean gull is the most recent addition to the breeding seabird fauna of the Britain and Ireland. The species first bred in the UK in 1968, but numbers remained very low until the late 1980s. In 2018, data were submitted to the SMP from 15 colonies, including the largest sites throughout the UK. At these, a total of 1,781 AON were recorded, compared to 110 AON during Seabird 2000, an increase of 1,519%. However, taking smaller colonies and those not counted recently (of which there are at least 38 in total) into account, it is thought that the UK population lies closer to 2,350–2,400 AON (Mark Holling pers. comm). Most large colonies are located in south and south-east England, although the distribution is expanding northward with smaller colonies becoming established elsewhere. The colonisation of the UK was a result of the expansion in population size and range from the species’ core population around the Black Sea and into other European countries in the 1950s and 1960s1. There is no evidence that the colonisation is related to climate change. Some colonies are prone to desertion after tidal flooding and predictions of increased storminess due to climate change may increase the incidence of tidal inundation of nests. This may potentially be affecting reproductive output, but there is much uncertainty about how this, and predicted increases in sea level, will affect the population size of Mediterranean gull and other species that nest close to the tidal mark.

 

Productivity

Relatively few data on productivity are available but, in recent years, one of the larger colonies in Langstone Harbour has decreased in productivity from 1.04 chicks fledged per pair in 2015 to 0.36 in 2018.

 

Scotland

This species does not yet breed in Scotland, although there have been several instances of single birds summering in Scottish gull colonies and pairing with both black-headed gull and common gull.

 

England

Population estimates and change 1969–2002 (census data)

 

Operation Seafarer    

(1969-70)

Seabird Colony Register    

(1985-88)

Seabird 2000    

(1998–2002)

Population estimate (AON*)

0

1

108

% change since previous census   

n/a

n/a

+10,700

*AON = Apparently Occupied Nests

 

Breeding abundance

The Seabird Colony Register recorded only one Mediterranean gull pair breeding in England. However, breeding was first confirmed in 1968 in Hampshire and was sporadic until the late 1980s. Thereafter, colonisation spread outwards from southern and south-east England so that, by Seabird 2000, there were 108 AON recorded, some as far north as Lancashire and West Yorkshire. However, the main population was still centred in the south. Between 1,390–1,415 AON were reported to the Rare Breeding Birds Panel in 20172.

 

Productivity

Relatively few data on Mediterranean gull productivity are available but, in recent years, one of the larger colonies in Langstone Harbour has decreased in productivity from 1.04 chicks fledged per pair in 2015 to 0.36 in 2018.

 

Wales

Breeding abundance

The Mediterranean gull is a recent colonist in Wales, although data submitted are sparse. However, one colony in Anglesey is known to be fluctuating with one breeding AON in 2009 and 2010; two in 2011 (although breeding was only confirmed for one); and five in 2014 and 2017, however, no further nesting has been recorded since.

 

Productivity

Data submitted to the SMP on the productivity of Mediterranean gulls in Wales are sparse; however, at least two young fledged from three AON in 2013 and three from five nests in 2014. Since then, no productivity data have been available.

 

Northern Ireland

Population estimates and change 1969–2002 (census data)

 

Operation Seafarer    

(1969-70)

Seabird Colony Register    

(1985-88)

Seabird 2000    

(1998–2002)

Population estimate (AON*)

0

0

2

% change since previous census   

n/a

n/a

n/a

*AON = Apparently Occupied Nests

 

Breeding abundance

Mediterranean gull is a recent colonist in Northern Ireland, first breeding in 1995 and between one to three AON being recorded annually between 1995 and 2010. Numbers have increased since then, particularly since they began breeding at Belfast Lough in 2016. In 2018, a total of 14 AONs were recorded in Northern Ireland3.

 

Productivity

From 2016 to 2018, Larne Lough and Belfast Lough fledged an average of 2.35, 1.00 and 1.98 chicks per pair. In 2018, Mediterranean gulls at the same colonies had an average productivity of 1.75 and 2.17 chicks fledged per pair respectively.

 

Republic of Ireland

Population estimates and change 1969–2018 (census data)

 

Operation Seafarer    

(1969-70)

Seabird Colony Register    

(1985-88)

Seabird 2000    

(1998–2002)

Republic of Ireland Census

(2015-18)

Population estimate (AON*)

0

0

3

54

% change since previous census   

n/a

n/a

n/3

+1,700

*AON = Apparently Occupied Nests

 

Breeding abundance

The first breeding record for the Republic of Ireland occurred in 1996, when one AON was found at a site in County Wexford and by Seabird 2000, three AON were known. Numbers have increased since then; for example, 18 and 16 AON were reported at just one site in 2012 and 2013 respectively This site has continued to increase, holding 23 AON in 2014 and 28 AON in 2015. A Republic of Ireland Seabird Census (2015–2018) recorded a total of 54 AON at three sites across the country4. This represents a 1700% increase since Seabird 2000, when only three pairs were recorded. Almost 95% of the total number of pairs breed at Lady’s Island, County Wexford, which is also an important tern and black-headed gull colony4.

 

Productivity

Data submitted to the SMP on the productivity of Mediterranean gulls in the Republic of Ireland are sparse; thus, no meaningful average productivity value can be given.

 

All Ireland

Population estimates and change 1969–2002 (census data)

 

Operation Seafarer    

(1969-70)

Seabird Colony Register    

(1985-88)

Seabird 2000    

(1998–2002)

Population estimate (AON*)

0

0

5

% change since previous census   

n/a

n/a

n/a

*AON = Apparently Occupied Nests

 

Breeding abundance

Mediterranean gull colonised Ireland in the mid-1990s, with breeding first occurring in Northern Ireland in 1995 and the Republic of Ireland in 1996. The population increased slowly with five pairs counted during Seabird 2000. Numbers have increased since then, particularly since they began breeding at Belfast Lough in 2016 (Northern Ireland) and Lady’s Island (Republic of Ireland). In 2018, a total of 14 AON were recorded in Northern Ireland3 and 54 AON in the Republic of Ireland4, giving a total of 72 AON for the whole of Ireland.

 

Productivity

Data submitted to the SMP on the productivity of Mediterranean gulls from colonies throughout Ireland are sparse, however, between 2016 and 2018, two colonies in Northern Ireland fledged an average of 2.35, 1.00 and 1.98 chicks per pair each year. In 2018, Mediterranean gulls at Larne Lough and Belfast Lough had an average productivity of 1.75 and 2.17 chicks fledged per pair respectively. No data from the Republic of Ireland on Mediterranean gull productivity has been submitted to the SMP.

 

Isle of Man

Mediterranean gull does not breed on the Isle of Man.

 

Channel Islands

Mediterranean gull does not breed on the Channel Islands.

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UK phenology, diet, survival rates

No data have been collected as part of the Seabird Monitoring Programme.

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References

1 Parsons, M. 2004. Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus. In: Mitchell, P.I., Newton, S.F., Ratcliffe, N. and Dunn, T.E. eds. 2004. Seabird Populations of Britain and Ireland, 187-195. Poyser, London.

2 Holling, M. and the Rare Breeding Birds Panel. 2017. Rare breeding birds in the United Kingdom in 2017. British Birds, 109, 483–558.

3 Booth Jones, K. and Wolsey, S. 2019. Northern Ireland Seabird Report 2018. British Trust for Ornithology, Thetford.

4 Cummins, S., Lauder, C., Lauder, A. and Tierney, T. D. 2019. The Status of Ireland’s Breeding Seabirds: Birds Directive Article 12 Reporting 2013 – 2018. Irish Wildlife Manuals, No. 114. National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Ireland.

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Partners

Data have been provided to the SMP by the generous contributions of its partners, other organisations and volunteers throughout Britain and Ireland. Partners to the SMP are: BirdWatch Ireland; The British Trust for Ornithology; UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology; Natural Resources Wales; Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (Isle of Man); Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Republic of Ireland); States of Guernsey Government; JNCC; Manx Birdlife; Manx National Heritage; The National Trust; National Trust for Scotland; Natural England; Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs; The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; Scottish Natural Heritage; Seabird Group; Shetland Oil Terminal Environmental Advisory Group; Scottish Wildlife Trust. More about the SMP partners >>

 

Image of Mediterranean gull appears courtesy of Ian Rendall ©, is subject to international copyright law and may not be reproduced in any form whatsoever.

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Categories:

SMP Report 1986–2018

Published: .

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