This species is 37 to 40 cm (14.6 to 15.7 in) long with a 90 to 102 cm (35.4 to 40.2 in) wingspan. It is therefore slightly larger than the black-headed gull, which it resembles, although it does not have a black hood in summer. It has a pale grey body, white head and breast and black tips to the primary wing feathers. The head and dark red bill have an elongated tapering appearance, and this bird also appears long-necked. The legs are dark red, and the iris is yellow. In summer, the breast has a faint pink colouration. This bird takes two years to reach maturity, as is usual in gulls. First year immature birds have a black terminal tail band, and dark areas on the wings.