Yellow-Legged Gull

Yellow-Legged Gull


Profile Yellow-Legged Gull     Literature page Yellow-Legged

[order] Charadriiformes | [family] Laridae | [latin] Larus cachinnans | [UK] Yellow-Legged Gull | [FR] Goéland leucophée | [DE] Mittelmeermöwe | [ES] Gaviota patiamarilla | [IT] Gabbiano reale | [NL] Geelpootmeeuw

Geelpootmeeuw determination

copyright: J. Del Hoyo

These gulls have a medium grey coloured back and the adults have yellow legs and a red orbital ring. The bill is also yellow with a small red mark at the end. Juveniles have streaked grey-brown bodies with dark bills and pink legs.

The Yellow-legged Gull is found in a great variety of habitats, preferring quieter locations such as small islands and coastal cliffs where it spends the night and nests. During the day, these birds are commonly seen in large numbers in areas of human settlement.

Larus cachinnans is a widespread breeder in coastal areas of southern and eastern
Europe, which constitutes >50% of its global breeding range. Its European breeding
population is large (>310,000 pairs), and increased between 1970-1990. Although
there were declines in Croatia and Georgia during 1990-2000, populations across
the rest of its European range increased or were stable, and the species showed a
marked increase overall.
Four races of the Yellow-legged Gull inhabit the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions, the Atlantic coasts of the Iberian Peninsula and south-western France, the Azores and Madeira. Inside the continent it is breeding in Switzerland and Austria. Most of the populations are sedentary, but many birds from the Mediterranean move outside the breeding season northwards to Central Europe and the coasts of the Channel and southern North Sea. The population of those races in the European Union is estimated at 140000 breeding pairs. They have strongly increased in recent decades

Yellow-legged Gull: Usually found near ocean or shorelines, feeding on almost anything it can eat. May parasites on food from other seabirds.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 1,000,000-10,000,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 770,000-1,800,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from]

Monogamous and colonial. Nest built by both sexes on ground or on cliff ledges; lined with debris, grasses, and feathers. Three eggs, buff or olive and marked with brown, black, or darker olive, incubated 28-30 days by both adults. Young stay in nest 35-45 days; one brood per year.

Fairly well documented by ringing recoveries; migratory, partially migratory, and sedentary. Nominate cachinnans adults mostly sedentary or locally dispersive around Black and Caspian Seas; others, and especially immatures, disperse to south of breeding range and south-east Mediterranean, some to northern Red Sea and Persian Gulf, and also wander with michahellis along river valleys (especially Danube) to western and central Europe, a few regularly as far as north-east Germany and Poland, where some possibly remain to breed. Race michahellis probably originally sedentary, but following expansion to north and west in 1970s considerable post-breeding dispersal, particularly of young birds, takes place in these directions, from Mediterranean along rivers such as Rhône and Rhine to large lakes in Austria, Switzerland, and southern Germany, with some continuing on to southern North Sea coast and south-east England (where marked increase in numbers in last 20 years), a few (principally from Italy) reaching southern Baltic, and also to north-west along Aude and Garonne to French Atlantic coast, where many immatures from Spain also gather. Large numbers remain in Mediterranean however; population on Moroccan Atlantic coast apparently sedentary. Races atlantis and lusitanius mainly resident, though some disperse down African coast as far as Nigeria.
Nominate cachinnans immatures arrive in Poland June-August, recorded in north-east Germany around mid-August, with maximum numbers in September, most departing from there in late autumn though some stay until May. Returns to colonies on Black Sea and south-west Caspian between February and May. Race michahellis disperses to north mainly June and July (many Mediterranean birds already on French Atlantic coast in April, where may oversummer until October); many leave Lake Geneva (though some overwinter) for Dutch and Belgian coast mostly around October, and increasing numbers, mainly immatures, recorded in Belgium September-October, perhaps joining birds already there since July. Present in north-east Germany June-December (maximum in August), and in south-east England mainly July-October. Returns to Mediterranean mostly December-January; birds noted in colonies in Camargue already in November and all breeders present by February.


  1. Measurements
  2. spanwidth min.: 120 cm
  3. spanwidth max.: 140 cm
  4. size min.: 52 cm
  5. size max.: 58 cm
  6. Breeding
  7. incubation min.: 27 days
  8. incubation max.: 31 days
  9. fledging min.: 35 days
  10. fledging max.: 40 days
  11. broods 1
  12. eggs min.: 2
  13. eggs max.: 3
  14. Conservation Status
  15. Geelpootmeeuw status Least Concern


  1. Larus michahellis michahellis
  2. w and s Europe, nw Africa, Mediterranean
  3. Larus michahellis atlantis
  4. Azore, Madeira and Canary Is.
  5. Larus michahellis
  6. EU w
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