Armenian Gull Larus armenicus


Justification of Red List Category
New information from the species's European range suggests that the population is declining more rapidly than was previously thought. No recent trend information is available for populations outside Europe. The species is therefore precautionarily listed as Near Threatened; it almost meets the requirements for listing as threatened under criteria A2ab+3b+4ab.

Population justification
The European population is estimated at 19,000-29,000 pairs, which equates to 38,000-58,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). The lake where the species is reported to breed in Iran, Lake Urumiyeh in Azarbaijan province, has decreased greatly in size (A. Ben Dov in litt. 2015).

Trend justification
The population trend is difficult to determine because of uncertainty over the extent of threats to the species (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and the movement of breeding colonies. However given that the European population is reported to be undergoing a continuous decline and the site where the species has been recorded breeding in Iran has decreased greatly in size, the global population is thought to be declining at moderately rapid rate approaching 30% in three generations.

Distribution and population

The species breeds from the Caucasus through Armenia  (breeding at Lake Sevan and Lake Arpilich [Burger et al. 2015]) to western Turkey (several known colonies, ranging from 12 to 3,450 pairs, A. Ben Dov in litt. 2016) and north-west Iran, wintering south to the eastern Mediterranean, northern Red Sea and northern Persian Gulf (Burger et al. 2015). Latest reports from Egypt suggest a wintering population of up to 2,100 individuals in the north-west of the country (A. Ben Dov in litt. 2016). It is a common winter visitor and passage migrant to Israel where numbers have decreased from approximately 60,000 individuals in the late 1980s to 22,000-26,000 individuals in 2009-2014 (A. Ben Dov in litt. 2015). The species is reported to be declining moderately rapidly in Turkey and apparently stable in Armenia (BirdLife International 2015). Trends are unknown for Georgia and Iran. The most recent known count in Iran from the early 1970s estimated the population at 4,000-5,000 breeding pairs (Scott 2007) however since then the lake where they were recorded, Lake Urumiyeh in Azarbaijan province, has decreased greatly in size (A. Ben Dov in litt. 2015).


The species inhabits both coastal and inland waters, frequenting lakes, reservoirs, ponds and rivers in Armenia, and additionally foraging in flooded meadows and irrigated areas (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Adamian and Klem Jr. 1999). It breeds along the stony and grassy shores of mountain lakes, nesting and foraging in reedbeds and on beaches (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Olsen and Larsson 2004). The nest is a loosely constructed structure of dry herbaceous vegetation. In two colonies nests were spaced 1-2 m or more apart among stones and grass, under rocks, or under bushes (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Adamian and Klem Jr. 1999). In its winter range the species may also forage in agricultural fields and on fish-ponds (Tel Aviv) (Adamian and Klem Jr. 1999, Olsen and Larsson 2004). Most of this species undergoes short-distance migratory movements on a narrow front (along the rivers and deltas of Turkey) between separate breeding and wintering grounds. A small proportion of the species may remain resident on the breeding grounds, and others may oversummer in the wintering grounds (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Olsen and Larsson 2004). The species breeds from late-April onwards, nesting colonially in huge aggregations (there may be more than 4,000 pairs per colony) (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Its diet is poorly known, but may consist primarily of fish as well as terrestrial invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles and rodents (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Adamian and Klem Jr. 1999). 


The global population of this species decreased significantly in the past as a result of persecution (due to the damage it inflicted to fisheries) and egg harvesting (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Olsen and Larsson 2004). The breeding success of the species was dramatically reduced after the water-level in Lake Sevan (Armenia) was lowered due to extraction for irrigation and hydropower production (Adamian and Klem Jr. 1999). Modernization of sewage and rubbish treatment facilities have also likely reduced habitat quality within Israel and birds that used to winter in these areas may have moved elsewhere (A. Ben Dov in litt. 2015). The lake where the species has been recorded breeding in Iran, Lake Urumiyeh in Azarbaijan province, has decreased greatly in size (A. Ben Dov in litt. 2015).

Conservation actions

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
It is listed under Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species and is covered by the African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement. There are 20 Important Bird Areas for this species across the region. In Armenia it breeds at Lake Sevan which falls within Lake Sevan National Park (IUCN Category II) (Burger et al. 2015).

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Identification and designation of important sites for this species. Education programmes to fishers to reduce persecution. Very few studies have been carried out on the species, and further work is needed to understand its ecology, including its diet and population trends.


57-60 cm, wingspan c. 140 m. White-headed gull with grey mantle and upperwings, bill deep yellow with a narrow subterminal black band and red spot near gonys (Burger et al. 2015). Legs yellow to orange-yellow. Iris mainly yellowish to brown with red orbital ring. Similar species Smaller, more slender and with a shorter, stubbier bill, more rounded forecrown than Caspian Gull L. cachinnans and by brighter legs and more extensive black at wingtips. Also has more extensive black at wingtips than European Herring Gull L. argentatus. Further distinguished from L. argentatus by wing pattern, bill, yellow legs and darker eyes. Upperparts slightly paler than L. fuscus heuglini but darker than L. argentatus argenteus.


Text account compilers
Wright, L, Tarzia, M, Wheatley, H., Malpas, L., Ieronymidou, C., Ashpole, J, Burfield, I., Butchart, S., Symes, A., Ekstrom, J., Taylor, J., Pople, R., Westrip, J.

Ben Dov, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Larus armenicus. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/09/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 22/09/2021.