Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Least Concern

Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans)


French: Goéland pontique German: Steppenmöwe Spanish: Gaviota del Caspio
Other common names: Yellow-legged Gull (when lumped with L. michahellis and L. armenicus)

Larus cachinnans


, 1811,

Caspian Sea


In much of 20th century treated as a subspecies of L. argentatus, despite the perceptions of some authors; now widely accepted as a species, on basis of little or no hybridization with L. michahellis in area of contact (or near-contact) in Black Sea, plus clear suites of morphological characters#R and unique use of open-wing display during Long Call#R. Molecular data also show it to be a distinct species, closer to L. fuscus, suggesting that the three species may have diverged during the Pleistocene. Form ponticus of the Caspian Sea is a synonym of cachinnans. See also L. argentatus. Monotypic.


Black Sea to Caspian Sea, S & E Kazakhstan and W China (W Xinjiang), and expanding westward in Europe (breeding regularly in Poland from 1980s)#R. Winters S to SW Asia, Middle East and NE Africa and increasingly in C & W Europe.

Descriptive notes

58–68 cm; 680–1500 g; wingspan 137–145 cm. Four-year gull. The breeding adult is a large white-headed, white-bodied gull, with grey mantle and... read more


All calls are lower-pitched than analagous vocalizations of L. argentatus, while the long... read more


Coasts and inland habitats. In C Asia inhabits lakes in steppe and semi-desert, including sandy... read more

Food and feeding

Mostly fish, invertebrates, mammals, refuse, scraps, offal, bird eggs and chicks, and insects. At Caspian Sea sometimes feeds chicks mainly... read more


Similar to L. argentatus. In some colonies, territorial throughout winter; lays from mid Mar. Colonies sometimes large (up to 10,... read more


Largely migratory, moving both W & S post-breeding, though some only move short distances. Main... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Overall status uncertain, owing to treatment as conspecific with L. argentatus until relatively recently. The wider ... read more

Recommended citation

Burger, J., Gochfeld, M., Kirwan, G.M. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans). 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).