Saturday 27 September 2014

Yellow-legged Gull - real or fake?

26th September 2014 - Topsham

A decent low tide afternoon gull gathering at Topsham Rec produced no surprises, just this interesting individual. It's been around a few days but these are the first photos I've managed to get.

Yellow-legged or Hybrid Gull? - 26/9/2014 Topsham

Yellow-legged or Hybrid Gull? - 26/9/2014 Topsham

Yellow-legged or Hybrid Gull? - 26/9/2014 Topsham
The mantle is a darker grey than Herring Gull and the legs are definitely yellow rather than pink, so why isn't it a Yellow-legged Gull? Well, there are a few things not quite right with this bird as a michahellis. The grey isn't that much darker than the adjacent Herring Gulls and the yellow legs are rather pale and washed out, a genuine michahellis should be darker still and the legs should be a richer yellow - the colour often fades a little in the non-breeding season typically not as much as this. The orbital ring is difficult to make out in the photos but through the scope was definitely not the obvious coral red shown by michahellis. On the open wing there is a broken black band on P5, on a Yellow-legged this should be broader and complete. There's also a suspiciously obvious white crescent between the grey and black on P6 and P7. On a more subjective level, the overall shape of the bird didn't give the feel of michahellis, the head is fairly rounded, even small, and the bill 'hook' has a gentle curve, although this might be because it's a female.

I admit I'm suspicious these days, here's why - an undoubted hybrid from last week. Darker grey certainly, but pink legs.

Hybrid Gull - 17/9/2014 Topsham

And no reason to doubt the credentials of this bird, a michahellis from Sardinia earlier in the month.

Yellow-legged Gull - 7/9/2014 Alghero, Sardinia

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