EVERY WEEK IN 2017 WE WILL HAVE NEW SUGGESTIONS FOR A DIFFERENT GROUP OF BIRDS TO LOOK FOR TO HELP DEVELOP YOUR #MY200BIRDYEAR LIST.
This week, it is smaller gulls
Our group to look for this week are the smaller gulls. These include arguably our most familiar species, the Black-headed Gull, the Common Gull, Mediterranean Gull and the most sea-bond of all our gulls, the Kittiwake. Plus, we must include the beautiful Little Gull, a bird seen on passage in the UK.
Abundant and familiar, the Black-headed Gull is, of course, the gull with a brown head. Gulls always seem to get their names slightly wrong (and the scientific name of the Black-headed Gull means laughing gull, which is an altogether different bird… ). In winter., the brown hood becomes a spot behind the eye, which makes them look a little like they are wearing headphones. All BhGulls look pointy winged. There is a distinctive white wedge shape on the leading edge of the outer wing and a dark grey wedge on the underwing in the flight feathers (primaries). The bull is red (darker in summer) and the legs and feet are also red.
Scarce but increasing the Mediterranean Gull has a truly black hood, which is slightly more extensive than on the Black-headed Gull. It is also a little larger (roughly Common Gull sized) and altogether chunkier bird. In full adult plumage, the wings lack any dark tones beign pale grey with white flight feathers. Birds a year before they are adults (second winters) have some black spots in the primaries. The thick bill is bright red and the legs are red.
Like a small Herring Gull, with a slightly darker grey back and a much smaller, yellow bill (lacking the the red bill spot of the large gull species), the Common Gull is a winter visitor to most of the UK, but a common breeder in the north of the country, especially Scotland. The wings are long and somewhat pointed, with distinctive large white ‘mirror’ at the tip. Legs and feet are grey-green.
A little smaller than a Common Gull, the pretty Kittiwake is the most ‘pelagic’ of our gull species, spending much time out to sea and only coming to land to breed, mainly on steep sea cliffs in ‘seabird cities’.b Kittiwakes have subtly two-toned grey wings with black wing tips lacking white spots and looking like they have been dipped in black ink. Juveniles have a W of black lines and a black half collar. Legs and feet are black.
The tiny, cute, Little Gull is a passage bird in the UK (and to a lesser extent a winterer), seen passing through in spring and autumn. In some ways, they are more like Marsh terns than gulls, especially in behaviour, flying buoyantly and swooping down to pick insesct snad other food from the water’s surface. They are seen passing over the sea or at freshwater sites. Much smaller than even Black-headed Gulls, there are in some ways like minuscule Mediterranean Gulls, with clean upper wings, lacking black (in adults); but the underwing is distinctly dark. Juveniles are first-winters are like juvenile and first-winter Kittiwakes. Legs and feet are red.
All photos from Alamy