Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Least Concern

Grey-headed Gull (Larus cirrocephalus)


French: Mouette à tête grise German: Graukopfmöwe Spanish: Gaviota cabecigrís
Other common names: Grey-hooded Gull

Larus cirrocephalus


, 1818,



Some recent authors place this species and other “masked gulls” in genus Chroicocephalus (see L. philadelphia). Morphometric analysis links it with L. novaehollandiae and L. serranus. Has hybridized with L. hartlaubii#R. Race poiocephalus sometimes considered unworthy of recognition. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. c. cirrocephalus Vieillot, 1818 – coastal Ecuador and Peru; coastal S Brazil to Argentina (S Buenos Aires), and inland through R Paraguay and R Paraná basins to Santa Fe (L Melincué). Post-breeding dispersal to NE Brazil and C Argentina.
  • L. c. poiocephalus Swainson, 1837 – coasts and inland rivers of W Africa; widely scattered localities from Sudan and Ethiopia to Malawi and S Africa, including Rift Valley lakes (Naivasha, Manyara, Elmenteita, Nakuru, Turkana); Madagascar. Disperses throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    38–45 cm; 255–360 g (race poiocephalus), 440–460 g (nominate); wingspan 100–105. Two or three-year gull. A tall, lanky gull with long bill,... read more


    Varied cackling and laughing calls, similar to those of L. ridibundus but deeper and... read more


    Tropical and subtropical coasts, offshore islands, and inland lakes and rivers. Breeds on rocky... read more

    Food and feeding

    Opportunistic. Mainly fish and invertebrates, occasionally termites; scavenges broken flamingo eggs and dead fish. In Mauritania preys on... read more


    Lays in Apr–May in W Africa (before rainy season), early May in Peru. Colonial; nearest-neighbour distance less than 1 m to a few... read more


    Many populations are permanent residents or disperse short distances, with many inland breeders... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). The global population is not precisely known but is estimated in the range of 455,000–940,000 individuals and thought to be... read more

    Recommended citation

    Burger, J., Gochfeld, M., Kirwan, G.M. & Garcia, E.F.J. (2020). Grey-headed Gull (Larus cirrocephalus). 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 24 January 2020).