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A photo of a Brown-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus)
Brown-headed Gull

Brown-headed Gull

Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus

The Brown-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus brunnicephalus) presents itself as a small gull species, distinguished by its pale brown head in the summer months. It boasts a pale grey body, with a red bill and legs, and the black tips of its primary wing feathers are marked by striking white "mirrors." In the winter, the brown hood retreats to reveal mere dark vertical streaks.

Identification Tips

Adults in summer plumage can be recognized by their light brown heads, which are lighter than those of the Black-headed Gull. The underwing is grey with black flight feathers. In winter, look for the dark streaks where the hood once was. Juveniles and first-year birds can be identified by a black terminal tail band and more dark areas on the wings.


This gull favors the high plateaus of central Asia for breeding, particularly favoring colonies in large reedbeds, marshes, or islands within lakes.


Breeding across the central Asian plateaus, from Tajikistan to Ordos in Inner Mongolia, the Brown-headed Gull is migratory, spending winters along the coasts and large inland lakes of the Indian Subcontinent.


Highly gregarious, especially in winter, the Brown-headed Gull is an opportunist feeder, equally at home scavenging in urban areas or foraging for invertebrates in ploughed fields. It is not typically found far from coasts, as it is not a pelagic species.

Song & Calls

The Brown-headed Gull is a vocal bird, particularly so within its colonies.


Nesting on the ground within colonies, this gull breeds in environments such as large reedbeds, marshes, or on lake islands.

Similar Species

The Brown-headed Gull is slightly larger than the Black-headed Gull and can be differentiated by the color of its head in the breeding season and the pattern of its wingtips.

Diet and Feeding

An adaptable feeder, this gull will scavenge in urban settings and also forage for invertebrates in agricultural fields.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List categorizes the Brown-headed Gull as Least Concern, indicating a stable population.

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