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Caspian Gull

From Opus

AdultPhoto by AJDHSaudi Arabia
Photo by AJDH
Saudi Arabia
Larus cachinnans

Includes Steppe Gull


[edit] Identification

A four-year gull. Slenderer and with a smaller head than Herring Gull. Has a slender, parallel-edged bill and small eyes sitting well forward in head. The neck is long, the breast well protruding and the hindparts slender. Often shows a pronounced hanging-belly behind the long, thin legs.

First-yearPhoto by Cristian MihaiBucharest, Romania, March 2010
Photo by Cristian Mihai
Bucharest, Romania, March 2010

[edit] Adult

Has a similar wing pattern to Herring Gull: White tip to P10, but white tongues on primaries long and often creating a streaked wing-tip. P5 with extensive black markings. The head is white, sometimes with some faint brown hindneck-streaks in autumn. The eye is often darkish-looking, the bill often greenish-tinged. The legs are grey with fleshy to yellow tinge.

[edit] Third-year

Like adult but with generally fuller black on wing-tip and often dark markings on primary coverts, tail and bill.

[edit] Second-year

Adult in flightPhoto by Cristian MihaiBucharest, Romania, November 2009
Adult in flight
Photo by Cristian Mihai
Bucharest, Romania, November 2009

Grey upperparts contrast with browner lesser and greater coverts, has a solid dark wing-tip (sometimes with white mirror on P10) and whitish head, underbody and underwing. May show traces of a dark tail-bar.

[edit] First-year

White on head and body reduced to spots on hindneck, some faint spots on breast-sides, flangs and edges of undertail-coverts. Bill and eye black. Upperwing brown with solid dark bars across bases of secondaries and greater coverts (like Lesser Black-backed Gull). Tertials dark with white tips. Shows a pale wedge on lower back, reaching the white tail-base which contrasts with the solid blackish tail-bar. Underwing often mainly white.

[edit] Similar species

May be confused with Yellow-legged Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and other big gulls.

[edit] Distribution

Breeds in central Asia and north of the Black Sea. Recent breeding range expansion west into central Europe, mainly along major rivers, west to southern Poland. Winters to Europe, northwest Africa and south Asia.

[edit] Taxonomy

Steppe GullPhoto by Alok TewariJamnagar, Gujrat, India, January 2016
Steppe Gull
Photo by Alok Tewari
Jamnagar, Gujrat, India, January 2016

This species is sometimes considered conspecific with Yellow-legged Gull, with both also formerly included as subspecies within a wider concept of Herring Gull. Its westwards range expansion has brought it into contact with Herring Gulls in central and northern Poland, with many records of hybrid pairs in this area[1][2].

[edit] Subspecies

Three subspecies are recognised[3]:

  • L. c. cachinnans breeding from Poland east to Kazakhstan, spreads to Europe (northwest to England in small numbers), northeast Africa and southwest Asia in winter
  • L. c. barabensis breeds in the steppes of central Asia, winters in southwest Asia and western India - Steppe Gull (sometimes regarded as full species)
  • L. c. mongolicus from the Altai and Lake Baikal to Mongolia, winters in eastern Asia from Japan south through eastern and southern China to northernmost Vietnam - Mongolian Gull (sometimes regarded as full species)

[edit] Habitat

Breeds on sandy dunes, islands, steppe lakes and along rivers. Recently colonising post-industrial wetlands such as old sand and gravel quarry lakes in eastern and central Europe.
Outside breeding season at coasts, in harbours, on lakes or on rubbish dumps.

[edit] Behaviour

They are scavengers and hunt suitable small prey in fields or on the coast, or rob plovers or lapwings of their catches.

[edit] References

  1. Gibbins, C, Small, B. J., & Sweeney, J. (2010). Identification of Caspian Gull, part I. British Birds 103: 142-183.
  2. Gibbins, C, Neubauer, G., & Small, B. J. (2011). Identification of Caspian Gull, part II. British Birds 104: 702-742.
  3. Clements, JF. 2011. The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. 6th ed., with updates to August 2011. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0801445019. Spreadsheet available at
  4. Dickinson, EC, ed. 2003. The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. 3rd ed., with updates to December 2007 (Corrigenda 7). Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0691117010
  5. Gill, F and M Wright. 2008. Birds of the World: Recommended English Names. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, USA. 2006. ISBN 9780691128276. Update (2008) downloaded from
  6. Sibley, CG and BL Monroe. 1996. Birds of the World, on diskette, Windows version 2.0. Charles G. Sibley, Santa Rosa, CA, USA.
  7. Malling Olsen K and H Larsson. 2003. Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America. London: Christoper Helm. ISBN 0 7136 7087 8

[edit] External Links

ID discussion on how to distinguish Caspian (L. cachinnans) and Yellow-legged Gull (L. michahellis and L. m. atlantis)


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