Thursday, 12 April 2012

Name that gull ...

Test your ID skills and have a go at naming this relatively pale first-cycle gull, here surrounded by the local atlantis form of Yellow-legged Gull (or 'Azores Gull', if you will - and I do).
I've been going back through hundreds of gull images from last month's superb Azores trip, and came across several of a bird which puzzled me somewhat at the time. The default gull in the islands is the local atlantis form of Yellow-legged Gull, which is distinctly darker in immatures plumages than nominate michahellis; adults also have characteristically streaked heads in winter, again unlike the typical birds we know from Britain and continental Europe. But other gulls regularly occur - indeed, on one day during the last trip I logged a (record?) total of 10 species. So what's this bird then? I have an opinion but would welcome others, so please leave a comment with your suggestion and reasons.

The same bird in flight, showing the upperside in detail ...
... and landing, with half a view of the underwing. What's your opinion? Comments welcome.


  1. 1st winter michahellis type? Due to it's size and structure maybe...

  2. If I saw that on my patch I'd be claiming YLG, and michahellis is obviously the default form in Devon! Looks good to me.

  3. I would go for michahellis too. Pale head, wing pattern seem to fit.

  4. Thanks for the comments here, on Facebook (via the UK Gulls group) and on ID-Frontiers. Every respondent suggested second-calendar-year michahellis, which is also what I believe it most likely to be; my slight reticence is due to nagging uncertainty that a few birds from Madeira and the Canaries, sometimes included within atlantis and certainly not identical to true michahellis, might conceivably also match this plumage (I haven't visited Madeira or the Canaries in March so don't know whether this is the case or not). More study needed, as they say ...



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