Family Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)

Least Concern

Pallas's Gull (Larus ichthyaetus)


French: Goéland ichthyaète German: Fischmöwe Spanish: Gavión cabecinegro
Other common names: Great Black-headed Gull

Larus Ichthyaetus


, 1773,

Caspian Sea


Some recent authors place this species, along with L. relictus, L. melanocephalus, L. hemprichii, L. leucophthalmus and L. audouinii, in genus Ichthyaetus (the “black-headed gulls”, even if some lack black head). Despite its large size, this species’ behavioural repertoire appears typical of that of “hooded gulls”, although considered distinctive by some; possibly a link between the “hooded” and the “white-headed gulls”. Monotypic.


Breeds in a few very small, scattered localities from the Black Sea (Crimea, Danube Delta) E to L Balkhash and spottily to NW Mongolia; also Tibet#R, as well as N China (Gansu, Qinghai, Inner Mongolia). Winters on coasts of the E Mediterranean, Red Sea, S Caspian Sea and N Indian Ocean E to Myanmar, rarely to Thailand; also inland on the Gangetic Plain (N India) and in SC Ethiopia.

Descriptive notes

59–72 cm; 900–2000 g; wingspan 150–172 cm. One of the largest gulls, averaging nearly as large as L. marinus. Characteristically flat-crowned, with... read more


Not very vocal except when nesting. Calls generally deep and short. Breeding birds give a deep... read more


Frequents coasts and major rivers. It is attracted to anthropogenic food sources such as harbours,... read more

Food and feeding

Chiefly fish (particularly dead fish) and crustaceans, as well as insects, small mammals, birds, eggs and reptiles. In Volga Delta 88% of... read more


Returns to colonies in early Mar; lays from early Apr. Distinctive courtship displays include raising back feathers, and a howling long... read more


Generally migratory, although some immatures may oversummer in winter range. Most winter in the S... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Total population unknown but that of the Black and Caspian Seas and SW Asia is estimated at > 100,000 birds, with a further 25,000... read more

Recommended citation

Burger, J., Gochfeld, M., de Juana, E., Garcia, E.F.J. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Pallas's Gull (Larus ichthyaetus). 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).