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Old Tuesday 6th February 2007, 12:42   #1
Red Loral
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Black-headed gulls

Hi,
I'm new to bird watching so please be patient. This morning I was looking out of my office window (I work from home), when a gull with a black head flew over. I looked through my books and they all relate to either a Mediterranean Gull, Little Gull, Sabine's Gull or a Black Headed Gull. The text accompaning the description of each bird states that the gulls do not have black heads in the winter. They only have plummage with black heads in the summer.

The gull appeared to be closest to the description of the Mediterranean Gull.

I live near Newark, Nottinghamshire, approximately four miles from a refuge tip which attracts large flocks of gulls and crows.

Is it possible that gulls are starting to moult earlier, or did I see another species of gull?

Red Loral
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Old Tuesday 6th February 2007, 13:18   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Red Loral
Hi,
I'm new to bird watching so please be patient. This morning I was looking out of my office window (I work from home), when a gull with a black head flew over. I looked through my books and they all relate to either a Mediterranean Gull, Little Gull, Sabine's Gull or a Black Headed Gull. The text accompaning the description of each bird states that the gulls do not have black heads in the winter. They only have plummage with black heads in the summer.

The gull appeared to be closest to the description of the Mediterranean Gull.

I live near Newark, Nottinghamshire, approximately four miles from a refuge tip which attracts large flocks of gulls and crows.

Is it possible that gulls are starting to moult earlier, or did I see another species of gull?

Red Loral
It would be most likely to be a Black-headed Gull. Some individuals can attian their breeding plumage as early as January. I saw one with a black head a few weeks ago.

Little Gull or Sabine's Gull would be an extremely unusual find to have flying past your office window, they don't particularily frequent rubbish tips either. Mediterranean Gull could also be possible, but on a fly-past view you would be unwise to claim it, even fro yourself, unless you had seen it very well.

Gulls can be fun to watch, some people make it their lifelong passion to find and identify the rarer species/subspecies.

Enjoy watching them, but don't expect to find too many of the rarer ones yourself (assume common before anything rare). Your bird book should give you some idea of the distribution/abundance/likelihood of the commoner gulls in your area.

btw Welcome to BirdForum, enjoy your birds!!
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Old Tuesday 6th February 2007, 17:06   #3
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Many of the BHGs I've seen lately seem to be beginning to moult back into their breeding plumage, I have seen a few which have almost regained their hood. As Dan says the most likely is BHG, although Med could also be a possibility. Was your bird adult or juvenille do you think?

I would advise examining all BHGs closely whenever you go birding, then you will be familiar with the species and able to pick out anything unusual, like the odd one or two med gulls that come your way.
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Old Tuesday 6th February 2007, 17:48   #4
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Hi Dan & kstar,
Many thanks for taking the trouble to reply. It was good to appreciate someone with experience giving me a few tips. I do enjoy watching birds, but it is frustrating sometimes, especially when trying to identify them.

Gulls in particular vary so much between winter and summer, young and mature. Its still good fun, especially when I see a first that I am certain of.

Thanks once again, good birding to both of you.

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Old Tuesday 6th February 2007, 20:49   #5
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Hi Red, did you notice the colour of the wingtips? If they had any brown or black on the bird is a BH Gull, but if they were pure white (so no dark at all in the whole wing) the bird would have been a Mediterranean Gull.
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Old Tuesday 6th February 2007, 20:57   #6
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The overwhelming likeliness is that your bird was a Black-headed Gull. Meds are still relatively unusual in the midlands, and to get one flying past your office window would have been remarkable.

I have seen BHGulls coming in to summer plumage by late December, and there are plenty around at the moment with darkening hoods.....
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Old Tuesday 6th February 2007, 21:11   #7
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Originally Posted by wrexile1
The overwhelming likeliness is that your bird was a Black-headed Gull. Meds are still relatively unusual in the midlands, and to get one flying past your office window would have been remarkable.

I have seen BHGulls coming in to summer plumage by late December, and there are plenty around at the moment with darkening hoods.....

I totally agree.

There are a couple of Meds hanging around Nottinhamshire at the mo (one around the southern GPs - Colwick, Holme Pierrpoint etc & one recently at Annesley).

I was at Kingsmill Res on Sunday eve for the gull roost, i would say that approx 1 in 100 or so BHGs there now have almost full brown hoods.

Btw - welcome to BF Red Loral

Mike

Last edited by Mike Feely : Tuesday 6th February 2007 at 21:12. Reason: spelling
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Old Wednesday 7th February 2007, 14:04   #8
Red Loral
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Originally Posted by The Firecrest
Hi Red, did you notice the colour of the wingtips? If they had any brown or black on the bird is a BH Gull, but if they were pure white (so no dark at all in the whole wing) the bird would have been a Mediterranean Gull.
Hi Firecrest,
Many thanks for the info regarding the wingtips of the gull. Unfortunately I did not notice any colour - thats not to say that there wasn't any colour. I will know what to look for next time.

Regards
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Old Wednesday 7th February 2007, 14:06   #9
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Hi Guys,
Many thanks for the info, and the warm welcome. I'm 60 and retiring in April. Really looking forward to absorbing myself into bird watching.

Thanks again

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Old Wednesday 7th February 2007, 16:47   #10
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Also being new to this I had the same uncertainty and have now come to the same conclusion that if in doubt these inland gulls are BHGs. I was at Bedfont Lakes close to Heathrow on Sunday and one there had the full black head rather than just the lines behind the eyes. The advice on the wing marking was useful, thanks
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