Archived 2015 topics: Audouin’s Gull (Larus audouinii) – downlist from Near Threatened to Least Concern?

Audouin’s Gull Larus audouinii breeds on Mediterranean coasts, with its main breeding areas at the Ebro Delta (NE Spain) and Chafarinas Islands (off NE Morocco), and scattered colonies from Portugal, Morocco and Algeria east to the Aegean Sea, S Turkey and Cyprus; it winters south to Senegambia (Burger & Gochfeld 1996). It is currently precautionarily listed as Near Threatened, because when last assessed it was considered possible that it may undergo a moderately rapid population decline in the near future.

Globally, it has an extremely large range in both the breeding season (>1.6 million km2) and in winter (>2 million km2), and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criteria (B and D2). Its population size is also moderately large (with 43,000–44,000 mature individuals in Europe alone; BirdLife International 2015), and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criteria (C and D1). Therefore, the only potentially relevant criterion is A, which relates to reductions in population size. Until recently, the population was thought to be at risk of declining moderately rapidly in the near future, at a rate approaching the threshold for listing as Vulnerable under criterion A (at least a 30% decline over ten years or three generations, whichever is longer).

New data collated from across Europe for the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International 2015) show that the species has not declined overall during the last decade, and that its population is probably now higher than ever. A combination of official data reported by 27 EU Member States to the European Commission under Article 12 of the EU Birds Directive and comparable data from other European countries, provided by BirdLife Partners and other leading national ornithologists, show that the European breeding population has increased substantially over the last three generations (39 years, based on a generation length estimated by BirdLife to be 13 years). Since 2000, numbers have remained stable overall, with continued increases in some W and C Mediterranean countries, declines in a few E Mediterranean countries, and fluctuations in Spain, which holds c. 90% of the European population. Consequently, the species is now classified as Least Concern at European level (BirdLife International 2015).

Europe holds c. 95% of the global breeding population and range, with the remainder in NW Africa, so the species’ status in Europe effectively determines its global status. Despite the threats perceived to be facing the species when last assessed (see current global factsheet for details), its population has not declined overall, and the species has continued to consolidate the population and range gains made since the 1970s (Genovart et al. 2008). Furthermore, in 2014, the species received additional protection when many of its key sites were designated as marine protected areas by Spain – including the area offshore from the Ebro Delta, which is heavily used for feeding by birds from the world’s largest breeding colony. The management plans for these areas address many of the key conservation measures required by this species (e.g. strict fishery management policies, protection of key habitats from development and degradation, enforcement of laws to minimise marine pollution, implementation of measures to reduce mortality in fishing gear, etc.). Other marine protected areas for this species have also been designated by other Mediterranean countries.

As the species is not declining, and is unlikely to decline sufficiently rapidly in the near future to be listed as Near Threatened, it should be reclassified as Least Concern. Comments on this proposal are welcome.


BirdLife International (2015) European Red List of Birds. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

Burger, J. & Gochfeld, M. (1996) Audouin’s Gull (Larus audouinii). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2014). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Genovart, M. Bertolero, A. Martínez-Abraín, A. (2008) La gaviota de Audouin. En: A. Bertolero, M. Genovart, A. Martínez-Abraín, B. Molina, J. Mouriño, D. Oro y G. Tavecchia. Gaviotas cabecinegra, picofina, de Audouin y tridáctila, y gavión atlántico en España. Población en 2007 y método de censo, pp. 44. SEO/ BirdLife. Madrid.

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7 Responses to Archived 2015 topics: Audouin’s Gull (Larus audouinii) – downlist from Near Threatened to Least Concern?

  1. Nicola Baccetti says:

    Right, it’s not declining in Italy either, but although we are globally the second country for breeding population size, the situation here is very different from that of Spain. Number of breeders is of course an indicator of status, but breeding success is another. Breeding failures are the rule in most years and most colonies (not all of them) of Italy, and this does not suggest that conservation is optimal here, or even good. Moreover, I still see the risks of a concentrated population, with huge numbers at very few sites, and unrelevant totals elsewhere. I recommend that a decision is taken only after the situation is analyzed separately in a representative number of range countries, and then a general decision is taken according to what is happening in the majority of them.

  2. Danae Portolou says:

    The Audouin’s Gull population in Greece has been declining over the last decade, with colonies becoming smaller in size and split up in subcolonies. In addition, the few colonies monitored annually by HOS have shown almost null breeding success at an early breeding stage. Possible reasons could be depleating foraging grounds, birds are more often seen feeding at aquacultures. A very different situation to the one recorded back in 1995-2000. It could be that the eastern breeding range is shrinking.

  3. W.R.P. Bourne says:

    Audouin’s Gull is no longer an internationally rare bird; if it is locally scarce this needs local action.

  4. Andy Symes (BirdLife) says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2015 Red List would be to treat:

    Audouin’s Gull as Least Concern.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 31 August, after which the recommended categorisation will be put forward to IUCN.

    The final Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife website in late October and on the IUCN website in November, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  5. Andy Symes (BirdLife) says:

    Martin Hellicar has provided the following information from Cyprus:

    The one colony in Cyprus seems to be on a downward trend (not statistically significant as such, but pattern seems clear enough…)

    Year Breeding pairs
    2007 19
    2008 26
    2009 28
    2010 15
    2011 18
    2012 17
    2013 22
    2014 16
    2015 8

    Also, the gulls often shift their breeding site between the rocks in the Kleides islands chain (their sole nesting site in Cyprus), suggesting disturbance (from YL Gulls and anglers/fisherman) may be a factor.

    This seems similar to what Danae was reporting for Greece, so maybe E populations / colonies not doing as well as those in the W…?

  6. Recorbet Bernard says:

    The Audouin’s Gull population in France (only breeding population in Corsica Island) is stable has over the last decade with 45 to 100 breedings pairs. But since 2013 ther’s only one colony to Aspretto/ajaccio (with good brreding success generally). The biggest colony of Corsican Cape (islands of Finocchiarola , Capense and Giraglia as disapeared and the little colony of Porto Gulf also. Globally situation is not very good but Corcican population have many exchange with sardinian and Toscan Islands (meta population) .

  7. Andy Symes (BirdLife) says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

    Following further review, there have been no changes to our preliminary proposal for the 2015 Red List status of this species.

    The final categorisation will be published on the BirdLife website in late October and on the IUCN website in November, following further checking of information relevant to the assessment by BirdLife and IUCN.

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