Saturday, 19 July 2014

First of the season

17th July 2014 - Topsham

Small numbers of juvenile Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gulls have been regular at the Rec over the last week or so and among this year's debutantes I recently found this striking bird.

Yellow-legged Gull juv 17/7/2014 - Topsham

Yellow-legged Gull juv 17/7/2014 - Topsham
Obviously my first thought was Yellow-legged Gull, it was very different to the Herring and Lesser Black-backed juvs nearby with its whitish head and body and those whitish fringes to the scapulars and coverts. The tertials and greater coverts looked fine and it did seem to be more advanced than other juveniles, the fringes to the mantle and upper scapulars (and a few of the lowers) were quite worn, all indicating the earlier fledging michahellis. Then I looked at it some more and, as usual, tried to talk myself out of it. The bill was not large and sometimes looked rather weak and graellsii-like. The flanks were quite heavily-marked and the legs very dark on the shins - mud perhaps?

Yellow-legged Gull juv 17/7/2014 - Topsham

Yellow-legged Gull juv 17/7/2014 - Topsham

Yellow-legged Gull juv 17/7/2014 - Topsham

Yellow-legged Gull juv 17/7/2014 - Topsham
It took flight eventually revealing, as I expected, dark inner primaries - though slightly paler than the outers - and a largely white rump and upper tail coverts contrasting with a black tail band. The tail band is somewhat broader than is typical of michahellis but, as far as can be seen from this distance and angle, the outer tail feathers seem quite white at the base.

Maybe not a classic michahellis but the only other option is a very pale Lesser Black-backed, or am I being over cautious? All comments welcome as usual.


  1. Hi Tim!
    Just cought a glimpse of your gull. Surely looks good for michahellis, probably a female due to bill size. The pale inner web of the innner primaries is a giveaway and the tail band is rather variable in michahellis ( Notice, however, in the far wing in the last pic, that the inner primaries looks all dark in the given angle. Some more here:



    1. Hi Jan and thanks
      I just don't see enough of these regularly to be 100% certain about less than 'classic' individuals, e.g. small-billed females with broad tail bands. Add to that the number of really dodgy adult 'yellow-legged gulls' I seem to get (which are surely hybrids) and yes, I'm probably being over cautious.

  2. Hi Tim - a striking looking bird - reminds me of photos I've seen of juv fuscus but wings look spot on for ylg - am enjoying searching for ylgs in Exmouth but having problems photographing the latest ones. I haven't had any juv lesser black backs yet unless of course I'm misidentifying my ylgs!

  3. Hi Matt, must get down to Exmouth sometime soon - you're seeing a lot more micks than me - have you tried breading them in? A few juv LBBG's now turning up at this end of the estuary and no, I'm sure you're not misidentifying your YLG's!