Wednesday 22 May
Slender-billed gull (Larus genei)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Slender-billed gull fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Slender-billed gull description
The slender-billed gull (Larus genei) is most easily identified by its distinctive profile, with a long, sloping forehead and a long, slightly drooping beak, for which it is named (2) (3). The head, neck, rump and tail are white, while the back and the upper surfaces of the wings are grey, with a white leading edge to the wings and black tips to the outer primary feathers. The underparts are white, sometimes with a rosy tinge (2) (3). The slender-billed gull has long, blackish-red legs, a dark red beak, and yellowish-white eyes, with a red eye ring (2) (3). Outside the breeding season, the slender-billed gull sometimes has a small, dusky spot on the side of the head (2) (3).
The juvenile slender-billed gull has greyish markings on its head, and immature birds have darker markings on the wings and more pink-orange legs than the adults (2). This species can sometimes be confused with the black-headed gull (Larus ridibundus), but is distinguished by its more angular, sloping head, longer bill, white rather than black head during the breeding season, and slightly larger size (2) (3). The calls of the slender-billed gull include high, chattering notes and a nasal ‘yep, yep’ (3).
- Goéland railleur.
Slender-billed gull biology
The slender-billed gull feeds mainly on fish, although it also takes insects and marine invertebrates, such as crustaceans, and also eats some plant material (2) (4). Food may be taken by dipping to the water’s surface, upending while on the water, plunge-diving, or by probing in mud with the beak. This species has also been known to take flying insects in the air, and will sometimes scavenge food, although less often than most other gulls (2). The slender-billed gull is a gregarious species, often seen in large flocks throughout the year (4).
Migratory populations of the slender-billed gull return to the breeding colonies around late February to March (2) (4), although immature birds may remain in the wintering grounds during the breeding season (4). Breeding usually takes place between March and May (2) (5), in large colonies which may number thousands of pairs and sometimes include other species such as terns (2). The nests are closely packed, and are usually a scrape or shallow depression on open mud, or occasionally in vegetation (2) (4), sometimes with some plant material, feathers and other objects added (5). The slender-billed gull lays 2 to 3 eggs (2) (5) (6), which hatch after around 22 days (2). The chicks of this species gather into crèches, and are led towards the sea by the adults, although the chicks are not able to fly until around 30 to 37 days old (2). The slender-billed gull first breeds at 2 to 3 years old, and has been known to live for up to 23 years (2).Top
Slender-billed gull range
The slender-billed gull breeds at widely scattered, isolated locations, from Senegal and Mauritania and the south and east of the Iberian Peninsula, through the Mediterranean, Black Sea and Middle East, and into Asia, as far as Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and northwest India (2) (4). Only some populations migrate, with birds from central Asia generally moving south to the Arabian Peninsula and into the Horn of Africa for the winter. Some slender-billed gulls also winter at the Caspian and Black Seas and around the Mediterranean (2) (4), and the species is sometimes recorded outside of its normal range, for example in other parts of Europe (3) (4).Top
Slender-billed gull habitat
This species breeds on the coast around the Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, Caspian Sea and Arabian Gulf, as well as on inland seas, steppe lakes (inland lakes which do not drain into the ocean), and on beaches, islands and sand-spits in shallow, tidal water (2) (3) (4). The slender-billed gull also uses meadows, grasslands and freshwater or brackish marshes near river deltas during the breeding season. In winter, this gull is almost always found on the coast, generally using shallow, inshore waters and salt pans (2) (4).Top
Slender-billed gull status
The slender-billed gull is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Slender-billed gull threats
The population of the slender-billed gull appears to be increasing, and this widespread species is not currently considered globally threatened (4). However, it may face a number of localised threats, including egg collection, habitat loss to tourism development, and pollution in the form of oil, plastic waste and agricultural chemicals (2) (4) (7). Human disturbance at breeding colonies can also be a problem and can lead to birds deserting the colony (6), or to increased predation of eggs and chicks by yellow-legged gulls (Larus cachinnans) and Mediterranean gulls (Larus melanocephalus) (2) (4). Storms or cold weather often also reduce breeding success by flooding nests or causing the death of chicks (2) (4), and the slender-billed gull may also be susceptible to potential future outbreaks of avian influenza (4).Top
Slender-billed gull conservation
The slender-billed gull is listed on Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention), which aims to protect migratory species throughout their range (8), and is also on Appendix II of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA), which calls on parties to undertake conservation actions for birds which rely on wetlands for at least part of their annual cycle (9). In some areas where the slender-billed gull occurs, such as the Po Delta in Italy and the Black Sea Biosphere Reserve, Ukraine, a number of conservation activities are underway or recommended to help protect breeding colonies of gulls and terns. These include protection from human disturbance, habitat maintenance and the creation of new nesting sites, efforts to control the yellow-legged gull population to reduce predation on other species, and preventing polluted water from entering vital areas of habitat (4) (7).Top
Find out more
To find out more about the slender-billed gull and its conservation, see:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
- Avian influenza
- Also known as “bird flu”, a contagious disease caused by any strain of influenza virus that is carried by and primarily affects birds.
- Slightly salty water, usually a mixture of salt and freshwater, such as that found in estuaries.
- Diverse group of arthropods (a phylum of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton) characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (parts of the mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, woodlice and barnacles.
- Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
- Primary feathers
- In birds, the main flight feathers projecting along the outer edge of the wing.
IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
- del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1996) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 3: Hoatzin to Auks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
- Peterson, R.T., Mountfort, G. and Hollom, P.A.D. (1993) Collins Field Guide: Birds of Britain and Europe. HarperCollins Publishers, London.
BirdLife International (November, 2010)
- Dies, J.I. and Dies, B. (2000) Breeding parameters of the slender-billed gull Larus genei in a new colony located at l’Albufera de Valencia (E Spain). Ardeola, 47(2): 255-258.
- Oro, D. (2002) Breeding biology and population dynamics of slender-billed gulls at the Ebro Delta (northwestern Mediterranean). Waterbirds, 25(1): 67-77.
- Rudenko, A.G. (1996) Present status of gulls and terns nesting in the Black Sea Biosphere Reserve. Colonial Waterbirds, 19: 41-45.
Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (November, 2010)
Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (November, 2010)
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
This species is featured in:
This species is featured in Jewels of the UAE, which showcases biodiversity found in the United Arab Emirates in association with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi.
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.