top of page

Gulls & Skuas

Kittiwake

Black-legged Kittiwake

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually.

Takes two/three years to reach maturity.

A small and agile gull with all black wing-tips, black legs (adults) and yellow bill. Area close to wing-tips much paler than rest of wings, and often visible at surprisingly long range (more so than the black tips). Adult winter with grey neck and black half-collar. Juveniles with black zig-zag pattern to wings, resembling pattern seen in Little Gull, Ross's Gull and Sabine's Gull. Differs from those in; no dark bar on secondaries, underparts of wing white, back grey, black on primaries reaches wing-tip. Flight action different from larger gulls; fast, stiff wing-beats and elegant manoeuvring even in strong winds.

Diet

The black-legged kittiwake eats marine invertebrates, plankton, and fish. It feeds in flocks and catches food at the surface of the water. It also dives just below the surface of the water to catch its prey, in fact, it is the only gull that dives and swims underwater!

Longevity record

28 years (Found dead in the UK, EC 26662)

Gawwija tal-Ingilterra

Rissa tridactyla

Charadriiformes

Laridae

Rare

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

January - February

Occasionally seen in

March, October - December

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

38 - 40
93 - 120
305 - 525

1585-110223.jpg
Slender-billed Gull

Slender-billed Gull

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually but occasionally in small groups.

Takes two/three years to reach maturity.

This scarce gull breeds in colonies, nesting on the ground and laying up to three eggs. Like most gulls, it is gregarious in winter, both when feeding or in evening roosts. It is not a pelagic species, and is rarely seen at sea far from coasts.

The head and dark red bill have an elongated tapering appearance, and this bird also appears long-necked. The legs are dark red, and the iris is yellow. In summer, the breast has a pink coloration. This bird takes two years to reach maturity. First year birds have a black terminal tail band, and dark areas in the wings.

Diet

Mainly feeds on fish. Occasionally feeds on marine invertebrates and catches insects in flight.

Longevity record

16 years (Russia, E 271491)

Gawwija Munqhara Irqiq

Chroicocephalus genei

Charadriiformes

Laridae

Scarce

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

March, October

Occasionally seen in

all other months

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

40 - 44
100 - 112
223 - 375

sleder billed gull, gawwija munqarha rqiq
Bonaparte's Gull

Bonaparte's Gull

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

A small gull that is a North American resident and breeder. A vagrant to see in Europe.

The Bonaparte's gull takes two years to reach maturity. It is slightly larger than the Little Gull and resembles also a similar flight although it has a jizz more likely of a  Black-headed gull but with narrower wings.

 

At all ages, it has whitish translucent primaries with a black trailing edge, a slender body, pale pinkish legs and a shortly slender dark bill.

Diet

Mainly feeds on fish. Occasionally feeds on marine invertebrates and catches insects in flight.

Longevity record

18 years

Gawwija ta' Bonaparti
Chroicocephalus philadelphia
Charadriiformes
Laridae
Vagrant

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in
---

Occasionally seen in
November, January
 

Click on the image to open slideshow

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

28 - 30
75 -90
170 - 235

clipart2923619.png
xc.png
0702-210123.jpg
Black-headed Gull

Black-headed Gull

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen in flocks, small groups or individually.

Takes two years to reach maturity.

 

Chocolate-brown hood in adult plumage (seemingly black at a distance), but head only with dark markings in winter and juvenile plumages. Underparts of inner primaries dark grey. First few primaries white with black tip, both on upper side of wing and under. Last character conspicuous in all plumages, but slightly less obvious in juveniles due to larger dark area of wing-tip. 

.

Diet

This gull is omnivorous. It eats mostly animal material, including wide variety of insects, also earthworms, marine worms, molluscs, crustaceans, small fish, carrion. During summer may eat many seeds and small fruits.

Longevity record

32 years (Ring read in the field in the Netherlands, 3275396)

Gawwija  Rasha Kannella

Chroicocephalus ridibundus

Charadriiformes

Laridae

Common

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

November - February

Occasionally seen in

March - April, September - October

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

34 - 39
100 - 110
161 - 400

221_1668-DeNoiseAI-clear.jpg
Little Gull

Little Gull

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually but may be seen in very small groups.

Takes three years to reach maturity.

 

Very small gull with rounded wings and almost tern-like appearance. Underwing black, with broad white trailing edge. Lacks Black-headed Gull's conspicuous white outer primaries. Adult summer plumage with black (not chocolate) hood, that reaches far down on hind-neck. Winter plumage without hood, but with dark cheek-patch and dark cap. Juveniles differs from juvenile Kittiwake in slender body, dark cap, dark patch at trailing base of underwing, faint dark wing-bar and shorter wings. Can, with experience, be identified by fluttering, butterfly-like flight at long distance.

Diet

Mostly insects. During summer and migration feeds mostly on insects. Also eats brine shrimp and other crustaceans, small molluscs, spiders, marine worms, and some small fish.

Longevity record

20 years (Ring  read in the field in Finland, AT-35319)

Gawwija Żgħira

Hydrocoloeus minutus

Charadriiformes

Laridae

Very scarce

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

December - February

Occasionally seen in

March - April, September - November

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

25 - 27
75 - 80
66 - 133

little gull, gawwija zghira
Franklin's Gull

Franklin's Gull

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

There is only one record of an adult gull transitioning to its summer plumage which was seen at Għadira Nature Reserve and later on at Salini Nature Reserve on the 9th May 2024.

Click link for Facebook post by Mario V. Gauci.

A true long-distance migrant, Franklin's breeds at freshwater marshes on the prairies of North America and winters along the Pacific coast of South America from Peru to southern Chile. It was previously much more abundant, with a decline of up to 90% noted between 1950 and 2000. Its world population now stands at around 350,000 pairs. This epic annual migration cycle seems to make it more susceptible to spectacular vagrancy, and it has been recorded in locations as diverse as Australasia, inland Africa and central and eastern Asia.

Franklin's is superficially similar to Laughing Gull at all ages, particularly at rest. However, it is a smaller bird, falling between Bonaparte's and Black-headed Gulls in size, and its upperparts average slightly paler (Kodak Scale 6-9). Unusually, it also undertakes two complete moults each year – once after breeding and another on reaching its wintering grounds.

At all ages, structure can be a good clue as to the identification: it tends to look 'cuter' than Laughing, with a smaller, rounder head, daintier bill and bigger eye. The white eyelids are even more pronounced than in its larger cousin.

Adults are largely similar in appearance to adult Laughing, with the greatest differences seen in flight – Franklin's has a broader-looking wing-tip that is accentuated by a striking primary pattern. The primaries are essentially white tipped, albeit with a variable amount of black subterminal markings from p6-10. This is easily discernible both at rest and in flight, with the wing-tip looking distinctly whitish.

As in Laughing, breeding-plumaged Franklin's show a glossy black hood, although the bill tends to be noticeably redder and so contrasts more. It may also retain the hood well into autumn. Winter birds show an extensive 'half-hood'. Second-winter Franklin's shows much more black in the wing-tip and thus can be trickier to separate from Laughing.

Diet

Mostly insects. During summer and migration feeds mostly on insects. Also eats brine shrimp and other crustaceans, small molluscs, spiders, marine worms, and some small fish.

Longevity record

---

Gawwija ta' Franklin
Leucophaeus pipixcan
Charadriiformes
Laridae
Vagrant

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in
---

Occasionally seen in
---
 

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

32 - 38
85 - 92
230 - 300

Copy of No%20Image%20Availableuploads_clipart_white_zSCtPqN-no-image-available-clipart_edi
Mediterrenean Gull

Mediterrenean Gull

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen in flocks but can be seen individually or in small groups. 

Takes three years to reach maturity.

Small, but bulky gull. Black hood with white crescents above and below eye, blood-red bill and legs in breeding plumage. The rest of the body seems all white at a distance. Wingtips pure white in adult birds. Chest deeper than in Black-headed gull, and wings fairly broad and rounded. In winter the black hood is largely lost, but dark streaking around, and at the back of the eye remains. Second year birds are similar to adult winter, but varying degrees of black markings remains on wing-tips.

Diet

An opportunistic omnivore, eating fish, worms, scraps, insects, offal and carrion.

Longevity record

22 years (Ring read in the field in Greece, E 000958)

Gawwija Rasha Sewda

Larus melanocephalus

Charadriiformes

Laridae

Common

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

September - March

Occasionally seen in

April, August

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

36 - 40
92 - 100
217 - 348

4722-260323.jpg
Audouin's Gull

Audouin's Gull

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually but sometimes seen in very small groups.

Takes four years to reach maturity.

A large gull found only in the Mediterranean and the western coast of Saharan Africa. It was considered one of the rarest gulls in the 1960's being said that the population was a mere 1,000 pairs. Today it had increased to an established 10,000 pairs. 

 

Slightly smaller and more elegant than the Yellow-legged Gull with a slender bill, more elongated, sloping forehead, and longer, narrower wings. It can be distinguished from the Yellow-legged gull by its blood-red bill with black and yellow tip (sometimes hard to appreciate), very dark iris, dark grey or greenish legs (often visible in flight), much paler grey upper-wing with only a tiny white patch at the wing-tip and small white tips to the wing feathers (appears like a ‘string of pearls').

 

Juveniles have a paler face, a  smooth unstreaked chest, unstreaked greyish neck feathers, a 'U' shaped rump patch on the tail and a strongly patterned underwing.
 

Diet

Mostly fish and cephalopods (squids, octopii, etc.), but small mammals, arthropods, birds and plant material are also taken.

Longevity record

25 years (Spain, 6005620)

Gawwija tal-Gżejjer

Larus audouinii

Charadriiformes

Laridae

Scarce

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

August

Occasionally seen in

all other months

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

48 - 52
115 - 140
460 - 625

Audouin's Gull, Gawwija tal-Gzejjer, birds of malta, malta bird atlas
Pallas Gull

Pallas's Gull

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

A vagrant bird that is seen individually.

A very large gull, listed as the third largest species of gull in the world, after the Great black-backed gull and the Glaucous gull. It measures 55–72 cm in length with a 142 to 170 cm wingspan. Summer adults are unmistakable since no other gull of this size has a black hood. The adults have grey wings and back, with conspicuous white "mirrors" at the wing tips. The legs are yellow and the bill is orangey-yellow with a red tip.

Diet

These birds are predatory, taking fish, crustaceans, insects and even small mammals.

Longevity record

29 years 2 months (Found dead in FInland, DT-13489) 

Gawwija Imperjali
Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus
Charadriiformes
Laridae
Vagrant

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in
----

Occasionally seen in
January, March, October, December
 

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

57 - 61
149 - 170
900 - 2000

8157-101222.jpg
Mew Gull

Common Gull

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually.

Takes three years to reach maturity.

A gull in smaller size, having a lighter bill and light flight. Head profile rounded, and the small bill lacks the red spot of the larger gulls. Told apart from Kittiwake by greenish legs and large white spot on wing tips. 

Diet

Mostly fish, worms, insects, fish, carrion and rubbish.

Longevity record

33 years, 8 months (Ring read in the field in Denmark, 5003247)

Gawwija Sekonda

Larus canus

Charadriiformes

Laridae

Rare

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

December - January

Occasionally seen in

February, November

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

40 - 45
100 - 130
290 - 548

221_8958_DxO.jpg
Lesser Black-backed Gull

Lesser Black-backed Gull 

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually.

Takes four years to reach maturity.

Yellow legs, black to dark grey back (regional variations) and black primaries with only small white spots. Winter plumage with streaked head and neck. Underside of flight feathers smoky grey. Juveniles very variable, but with completely dark inner primaries and broad terminal band to tail.

There are basically four sub species in the European region, being

--> L.f. graellsi which has a slate grey back

--> L.f. intermedius which has a much darker back than 'graellsi'

--> L.f. fuscus aka 'BALTIC GULL' which has a black back

--> L.f. heuglini aka 'HEUGLIN'S GULL'  which is similar to 'graellsi' but larger        in proportion

 

Klaus Malling Olsen, author of ''Gulls of the World: A Photographic Guide'', describes the L.f. fuscus i.e. the 'Baltic Gull' and the L.f. heuglini i.e. the 'Heuglin's Gull' separately from the 'graellsi' and ' intermediate' ssp.

Diet

Feed on fish, but can also feed on invertebrates such as crustaceans, molluscs and terrestrial prey.

Longevity record

34 years, 10 months  (A shot bird in the UK, GM 21509)

Gawwija Daharha Iswed
Larus fuscus
Charadriiformes
Laridae
Fairly common

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

September - March

Occasionally seen in

April, July - August

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

49 - 57
118 - 150
452 - 1100

gawwija daharha iswed, lesser black backed gull, baltic gull, fuscus fuscus
Herring gull

European Herring Gull

Maltese name/s 
Scientific binomen
Order
Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Large gull with deep chest, light grey back and heavy yellow bill with red spot (adult). Pinkish legs and black tipped primaries with white windows. Winter plumage with streaked head and neck. Develops grey mantle in 2.nd winter. Young birds may be difficult to distinguish from juvenile Greater- or Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and the species shows notable variation in both plumage and size. Juveniles generally shows darker head and less contrasting markings than Greater Black-back, and pale inner primaries (window), as opposed to the all black hand of young Lesser Black-backs.


Diet
Herring Gulls feeds primarily on fish and crustaceans, and destroys the clutches of terns, petrels and ducks. It also frequents rubbish dumps. It also consumes invertebrates, small mammals, molluscs, lizards and large insects. 

Longevity record
34 years 9 months  (Accidentally trapped in fishnet in Norway, 5020154)

Gawwija Prima Saqajha Roża
Larus argentatus
Charadriiformes
Laridae
Vagrant

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in
---


Occasionally seen in
November -January

Click on the image to open slideshow

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

55 - 67
125 - 155
717 - 1495

clipart2923619.png
xc.png
0371-010722.jpg
Yellow-legged Gull

Yellow-legged Gull

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually, in groups and in flocks.

Takes four years to reach maturity.

Silvery upperparts, bright yellow legs and more black and less white in wing-tips. Orbital ring red, not orange. Big, red gonys spot, often extending to upper mandible. Marked gonys angle. Primary feather P5 (counted from innermost feather in gulls) usually with broad, black band. In winter plumage head is less streaked and often completely white. Immatures first winter: Pale belly and head. Dark underwings with blotchy markings. Only vague pale window of inner primaries, and well defined, wedge-shaped tail-band. Dark base of bill.

Diet

Yellow-legged Gull feeds primarily on fish and crustaceans, and destroys the clutches of terns, petrels and ducks. It also frequents rubbish dumps. It also consumes invertebrates, small mammals, molluscs, lizards and large insects. 

Longevity record

20 years  (Ring read in the field in Portugal, 16678)

Gawwija Prima

Larus michahellis

Charadriiformes

Laridae

Common

hiclipart_edited.png

Usually seen in

November - February

Occasionally seen in

all other months for residents

Click on the image to open slideshow

clipart2923619.png
xc.png

Length (cm): 
Wingspan (cm): 
Weight (g):

52 - 58
120 - 140
550 - 1600

gawwija prima, yellow legged gull
Caspian Gull

Caspian Gull

Maltese name/s 

Scientific binomen

Order

Family          
Sighting occurrence 

 

Info*

Usually seen individually.

Takes four years to reach maturity.

The Caspian Gull has a long, slender bill with lacking pronounced gonys angle, accentuated by the sloping forehead. One has to note that most individuals with a narrower bill will probably be females. Males may have a somehow stronger bill but still slightly drooping and a less pronounce gonys- angle than in Yellow-legged Gulls.

 

The legs, wings, and neck are longer than those of the Yellow-legged Gull. The eye is small and often dark (in circa 75% of adult individual). However 1st and 2nd year gulls have a black iris, possibly brownish in 3rd years (in 25% probability) and a mid-yellow iris in adults (25% probability), and the legs vary from pale pink to a pale yellowish colour. The back and wings are a slightly paler than the Yellow-legged Gull. The outermost primary feather has a large white tip and a white tongue running up the inner web.

First-winter birds have a pale head with dark streaking on the back of the neck. The underparts are pale and the back is greyish. The greater and median wing coverts have whitish tips forming two pale lines across the wing.

Diet

They are scavengers and predators with a very varied diet. During the breeding season, they often eat rodents such as ground squirrels, flying some distance into the steppes to find them.

Longevity record

-

Gawwija tal-Kaspju

Larus cachinnans