Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Least Concern

Brown-headed Gull (Larus brunnicephalus)


French: Mouette du Tibet German: Braunkopfmöwe Spanish: Gaviota centroasiática

Larus brunnicephalus


, 1840,

west coast of Indian Peninsula


Some recent authors place this species and other “masked gulls” in genus Chroicocephalus (see L. philadelphia). Sometimes treated as a race of L. ridibundus, the Pamir population showing characteristics intermediate between the two species. Monotypic.


Mountains of SC Asia, between 3000 m and at least 4500 m: Turkestan and W China (W Xinjiang), and S to Pamirs (L Kara-Kul), Ladakh and Tibet. Winters on coasts of India, N Sri Lanka and SE Asia, sparingly W to Arabian Peninsula.

Descriptive notes

41–45 cm; 450–714 g; wingspan 105–115 cm. Two-year gull. Larger, stockier and flatter-crowned than L. ridibundus, with which it is often found in... read more


A raucous “keear” or “geek”, deeper and gruffer than in Black-headed Gull. Also a loud, wailing “ko... read more


Breeds on islands in large, cold, high altitude lakes of varying salinity, or in adjacent marshes,... read more

Food and feeding

Fish, shrimps, offal; also insects, grubs, slugs, earthworms, sewage, potatoes, rodents and plant shoots; occasionally winged termites.... read more


Returns to colonies in May; lays from end of May, mainly in early Jun, even when lakes still frozen. Colonies of c. 50 pairs, but reports... read more


Migrates over mountains to coasts of S Asia; fairly common in Nepal, where some remain to winter.... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Global population not known with any precision but the species seems to be quite numerous; a provisional estimate suggests 100,000... read more

Recommended citation

Burger, J., Gochfeld, M. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). Brown-headed Gull (Larus brunnicephalus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 26 February 2020).