Status: Winter visitor to east and south coasts from October to March and scarce passage migrant in spring and autumn.
Conservation Concern: Green-listed in Ireland. The European population has been evaluated as depleted by BirdLife International, due to a moderate historical decline.
Identification: The smallest gull species seen in Ireland, being about one third smaller than Black-headed Gull. Adult summer Little Gulls have an all black head contrasting with the white underparts and pale grey back. The wing tips are white in contrast to the black and wing-tips of Black-headed Gull. In flight, one of the most obvious feature are the black underwings. Adult winter Little Gulls have an all white head, except for some small black markings behind the eye and on the nape, but do not differ otherwise from the adult summer-plumage. First-winter Little Gulls have the same head pattern as adult winter birds, but differ in having a broad black bar across the wing, as well as black wing tips and a white underwing. Also has a broad black bar on the tip of the tail. Second-winter Little Gulls appear much as adult winter birds, but have small black markings on the wing tips and a white underwing.
Similar Species: Black-headed Gull, Kittiwake
Call: Usually silent when seen in Ireland.
Diet: Feeds by picking small fish, crabs and other invertebrates off the surface of the sea and less frequently lakes and ponds.
Breeding: Does not breed in Ireland. Little Gulls breed colonially in marshes in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.
Wintering: The majority of the European population of Little Gulls winter along the coasts of the North and Irish Seas, as well as the Mediterranean. Little Gulls are most frequently observed off the East coast, with smaller numbers present along the south coast. Rare in the north and west of Ireland.
Where to See: In winter, sites on the east coast such as Dalkey and Greystones regularly host Little Gulls. During spring and summer passage, Tacumshin Lake in County Wexford is a good site to see this species.
Monitored by: Irish Wetland Bird Survey and BirdTrack.