This species breeds in colonies in marshes and islands from southern Russia to Mongolia. It is migratory, wintering in the eastern Mediterranean, Arabia and India. This gull nests on the ground, laying between two and four eggs.
This is a very large gull, being easily the world's largest black-headed gull and the third largest species of gull in the world, after the Great Black-backed Gull and the Glaucous Gull. It measures 75 cm in length with a 170 cm wingspan and weighing 2.5 kg.
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 red.