Pallas’s gull -- 渔鸥 (Larus ichthyaetus)

Pallas's gull with summer plumage in flight
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Pallas’s gull fact file

Pallas’s gull description

GenusLarus (1)

One of the largest of all gulls, Pallas’s gull (Larus ichthyaetus) has bold plumage, with a particularly distinctive velvety-black ‘hood’ covering the face and throat in the summer (2). Pallas’s gull has grey upperparts and white underparts (3) (4). The flight feathers are also mostly white, except for the outer flight feathers which have conspicuous black marks near the tips (2).

The long, slender bill is orange-yellow and the legs are greenish-yellow with orange webs (2) (3).

Non-breeding adults differ in appearance, as they lack the distinctive black hood. Instead, they have a white head with a dusky area around the eyes, ear coverts and hindcrown (2). Juvenile Pallas’s gulls have dark brown upperparts, pale underparts and a greyish bill (2).

Also known as
Great black-headed gull.
Goéland ichthyaète.
Length: 60 - 72 cm (2)
Wingspan: 155 - 170 cm (2)
0.9 - 2 kg (2)

Pallas’s gull biology

Pallas’s gull arrives at its breeding colony in early March. The dense breeding colonies of this species consist of 70 to 3,000 pairs, with each pair nesting around 40 centimetres apart. Pallas’s gull has a distinctive courtship display, which involves raising the feathers on its back and releasing a howling long call (2).

The nest of Pallas’s gull is made of dried aquatic plants and feathers (2), and is situated in a shallow depression (5). Two eggs are typically laid in April, and the eggs are incubated for around 25 days, primarily by the female. Pallas’s gull chicks, which are creamy-buff or silvery-white, may leave the nest after around five days. Pallas’s gull typically first breeds at four or five years of age (2)

Outside of the breeding season, Pallas’s gull usually remains solitary or occurs in small parties of two to three individuals, although it will aggregate in large groups in areas where fish are abundant (5).

Pallas’s gull is an omnivorous bird, although its diet is dominated by animal material (5). It mainly feeds on fish, particularly dead fish, and crustaceans, as well as insects, small mammals, birds, eggs and reptiles. In cooler weather, this species may feed on seeds (2). Pallas’s gull has been observed following fishing boats and scavenging in harbours for a meal, and is also known to fly long distances from its colony in the breeding season to feed on swarms of insects (5).


Pallas’s gull range

A migratory bird, Pallas’s gull breeds in a few very small, scattered localities from the Black Sea (Ukraine), east to Lake Balkhash (Kazakhstan) and northwest Mongolia. It may possibly breed in northern China and Tibet (2).

Pallas’s gull spends the winter in coastal areas extending from the eastern Mediterranean to the Red Sea, the Arabian Gulf, and the northern Indian Ocean, as far east as Myanmar. It also occurs around the southern Caspian Sea (2).


Pallas’s gull habitat

During the breeding season, Pallas’s gull inhabits barren islands on fresh and saltwater lakes, inland seas in arid areas (2), rivers and river deltas, and on suitable mountain lakes (5). It nests among reeds and shrubby vegetation, as well as on bare, rocky areas or vegetated sand dunes (5).

After breeding, Pallas’s gull migrates to fish-rich coastal areas, wintering on beaches and in harbours. It may also occur inland on beaches of major rivers, lakes and reservoirs, or at fishponds and refuse dumps (5).


Pallas’s gull status

Pallas's gull is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Pallas’s gull threats

In some parts of its range, Pallas’s gull is threatened by an increase in nest predation by mammals, such as wild boar (Sus scrofa), and by expanding populations of the Caspian gull (Larus cachinnans) (2) (5), which preys on the eggs and chicks of other gull species (6).

Pallas’s gull may be persecuted in some regions due to feeding on commercial fish. Nesting colonies also face the threat of flooding following storms, and Pallas’s gull is susceptible to avian influenza, so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the disease (5).

However, although numbers of the Pallas’s gull appear to be decreasing, it is not currently considered to be threatened with extinction due to its large population size and extremely large range (5).


Pallas’s gull conservation

Pallas’s gull is listed on Annex 2 of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA). The agreement calls upon member countries to engage in a wide range of conservation actions for migratory birds dependent on wetlands for at least part of their annual cycle (7).

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View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

Learn more about Pallas’s gull and other birds:



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This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


Avian influenza
Also known as “bird flu”, a contagious disease caused by any strain of influenza virus that is carried by and primarily affects birds.
Diverse group of animals with jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton, characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, woodlice and barnacles.
Ear coverts
The circle of small feathers covering the ear opening of a bird.
Flight feathers
The feathers at the end of the wing, involved in flight.
Kept warm so that development is possible.
Feeding on both plants and animals.


  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1996) Handbook of the Birds of the  World. Volume 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Olsen, K.M. and Larsson, H. (2003) Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America. Christopher Helm, London.
  4. Redman, N., Stevenson, T. and Fanshawe, J. (2009) Birds of the Horn of Africa. Christopher Helm, London.
  5. BirdLife International (November, 2010)
  6. Rudenko, A.G. (1996) Present status of gulls and terns nesting in the Black Sea Biosphere Reserve. Colonial Waterbirds, 19: 41-45.
  7. AEWA (November, 2010)

Image credit

Pallas's gull with summer plumage in flight  
Pallas's gull with summer plumage in flight

© Yossi Eshbol /

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