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160223 black headed gull

The scientific name for the black-headed gull is Chroicocephalus ridibundus: Chroicocephalus is a combination of the Greek choria meaning colour and cephalus meaning head, and ridibundus is derived from the Latin ridere which means laugh. So, its head colour is laughable?

Well, someone was certainly having a laugh when they named it the black-headed gull. In the summertime – or, to be more precise, during the breeding season, its head may look black but is actually a dark chocolate brown. At the end of the breeding season, the feathers moult, leaving the bird’s head almost completely white, except for two small dark patches behind the eyes on either side of its head.

Along with many other things in the natural world, these gulls are confused by this year’s mild winter weather and have begun their change to breeding plumage. These photos, taken over the last couple of weeks, show that change.