Help with Mystery Small Gull

Mediterranean X Common Gull?

by Martin G.

Flamborough 13th September 2013

Wind only just turned NW as I arrived at 7:00 am for a couple hours of seawatching. Not enough to produce a much in the skua/shearwater realm. However, higher than usual numbers of Common (mostly first winters) and Black-headed Gulls soon began to pass, heading north off the head. Before long I picked up one and then 2 juvenile- 1st winter Mediterranean Gulls. The another small gull appeared…

See what you think:

Common Gulls

To start with here are some Common Gull shots from the same morning showing examples of upper and underparts.

common gulls e

common gulls d

common gull 1cy

common gull c

common gull b 1cy(Above) 1st winter Common Gulls Flamborough 13th Sept. 2013. M. Garner

Mediterranean Gull

To compare here is the first of the 2 first winter Mediterranean Gulls that passed. notice especially the patterning details in under and upperwing

Med Gull 1cyMed Gull b 1cy(Above) 1st winter Mediterranean Gull, Flamborough 13th Sept. 2013. M. Garner

Mystery Small Gull

Now here is the Mystery Bird. I first picked it up by the strangely thin looking black tail band set in all white rump and tail. I called it straight off as odd Common Gull and then with couple more views began to see Mediterranean Gull characters. I fired off a few shots and quickly concluded, in discussion with other guys, that is seemed to show intermediate characters between Common and Mediterranean Gull. So was it a hybrid?

The ‘southern breeding’ Mediterranean and ‘northern breeding’ Common Gulls are hardly close neighbours over most of their ranges, so I assume that hybridisation is pretty rare…

hybrid type e

First views suggested a young Common Gull with wacky tail pattern. Then I had another think. Strikingly the head was noticeable white and isolated and the bill looked a little short and sort of ‘punched in’ for Common. Then in the detail the underwing had sort of intermediate pattern between Common and Med, and that pattern of white spots in the the outer primaries is only found similarly on Mediterranean Gull – or Relict Gull 😉  isn’t it?

hybrid type f

hybrid type g

hybrid type k jpg

curious type ahybrid type l jpg

hybrid type m jpg(Above) Apparent hybrid 1st winter Mediterranean X Common Gull or aberrant something… 1cy Common Gull? Flamborough 13th Sept. 2013. M. Garner

Thoughts very welcome. Though I don’t think it is one, I can’t seem to find a photo anywhere of a juvenile-first winter Relict Gull– just for curiosities sake 🙂

Thoughts very welcome:

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About Martin Garner

I am a Free Spirit
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6 Responses to Help with Mystery Small Gull

  1. Brett Richards says:

    Photo of a 1st w Relict Gull in Olsen & Larsson’s ‘Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America’, page 496.

  2. Tim Allwood says:

    OBC image database too has a few first winters

  3. Johnny Mac says:

    saw juv/1w Relict Gulls in Mongolia in mid September 2008 they possess the same mottled nape and shawled appearance that these young common gulls show. On the deck they are very distinctive with upright stance and walking on “tip toes” gait and quite adult like with extensive freshly moulted pale grey mantle and scaps.so more advanced than this individual…in flight they were obviously more juvenile showing the bank of contrasting dark centred juvenile wing coverts..however from my notes it appears that they showed no real tail band just spotted tips to the tail feathers and a more diffuse secondary bar and the tertials with just dark centres..the bill was also dark and more substantial
    Got some poor photos of bird on the deck…

  4. Ronald0 says:

    Very interesting Martin. Birds abort/ arrest moult when stressed and I might err on the side of a Common gull with arrested moult although the bill does look a little different than would be expected. I AM NO EXPERT though.

  5. Pingback: Relict Gull | Birding Frontiers

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