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Larus gull in north-eastern France (1 Viewer)

Hello,

I saw this Larus gull in Haut-Rhin, France (47°45'52.8"N 7°10'06.5"E) with >30 yellow-legged gulls. It seems to me that it could be showing some shape features of Caspian gull (longish legs and primary projection, pear-shaped head, longish bill, ventral budge, prominent chest, etc.) but none of these seem very typical. As for plumage, I tried to look for resources but haven't found anything conclusive. Caspian is also rare here at this time of year and I'm not very experienced with these gulls. Happy to hear thoughts!

Thanks,
David
 

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Hi. I'm trying to learn Gulls, which, as you well know, is really difficult!! 😮 But, I'll give it a bash. I think, it looks pretty good for a Caspian - bill length and shape look OK, slight gony angle - legs do look long and spindly - cream outer edges to the tertials/greater coverts..... Maybe 1st summer?? I'm sure Lou. S/A. Stohr will be along soon to correct me! 😂
 
Hello,

I agree with you and Harry. Looks like a 2cy Caspian Gull for me too.

It looks similar to the attached 2cy Caspian Gull (Altwarp. NE-Germany, 10.04.2016), and quite a few YLG have a stronger pattern on the greater coverts and broader/more extensive dark centers on the mantle. But as always: thanks Lou!

And it doesnt seem to have the mixture of different patterned scapulars/back, that I see regular in NE-Germany, and (think it might well be a feature of Caspian x Herring Gull hybrids? Have I read it somewehere?)

Like this one, a Caspian x Herring Gull hybrid? Thanks Lou and all!
1cy Gull (Prenzlau, NE-Germany, 08.10.2019)
 

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Thank you both. I'm still not sure I can exclude YLG. The jizz is not super typical of Caspian like in your photo, Alexander (e.g. raised posture). So unless someone else can give reasons to exclude YLG (or Caspian), I'll leave it as Larus sp.
 
May is definitely not the best month of the year to try and learn your gulls! I am certainty not saying you shouldn’t go out gulling in may of course, but you have picked the most difficult period in terms of identification, in a group famous for the identification problem it pauses.



As to your bird: many, many 2cy YLG look just like this at this time of the year and the plain scapulars are no longer a good feature. See for instance this recent post by Rémi Jugieux on Facebook’s Western palearctic gulls: Log in to Facebook Notice that 2cy YLG missing plain grey scapulars are actually a minority.

There is such a wide array of variations in large gulls that it’s difficult to pinpoint a really diagnostic character that would separate YLG from Caspian (although, like Lou said, tail pattern is a very stable feature in first cycle birds that should be checked on any contentious bird), especially in worn plumage as here. But typically, 2cy Caspian in may would appear even plainer/uniform on the mantle than your bird and would have a « silvery pale » look to it. When present, the black internal marks to the scapulars would mostly be « longitudinal » streaks running along the shaft and not transversal as in your bird. See:

- Détail de l'observation - www.faune-iledefrance.org

- Détail de l'observation - www.faune-iledefrance.org



Also, most Caspian would still show the typical white band form by the tips of the greater coverts. See these for comparison:

- Détail de l'observation - www.faune-iledefrance.org

- Détail de l'observation - www.faune-iledefrance.org

- Détail de l'observation - www.faune-iledefrance.org



The bold black and white barring to some median and lesser coverts is on average a better fit for YLG than Caspian.
And while the legs of your bird are indeed long and would fit just fine on a Caspian, the bill structure looks much better for a YLG. The head shape/profile does not give me particularly strong Caspian vibes either I must say. We can’t gauge the neck length/thick on your images but I thought I would mention this for the sake of completeness and be alos because structure is such an important tool when the plumage is bleached…
In essence, I would pass this bird as one of the numerous Caspian-lookalike YLG that are so common in spring.
Of course there are some generalizations in what I wrote and not everything is bulletproof or 100% reliable, but I think that will give you a better idea of what to look for in your quest for finding 2cy Caspian gulls in spring.
 
Hello Thibaut,

excellent, thanks so much!
Can you provide a link to the facebook post, so that non-members like me can see it? Thanks!
That’s already what I did in my previous post, but let me try again: Log in to Facebook (looks like you need a Facebook account to get to the post).
Anyway I will attach some of Remi’s pics to this post. Note in particular the flight shot where all 3 birds have plain grey scapulars.
 

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Hello again Thibaut,

thanks for posting the pictures. I dont have a facebook account, so I cant see it.

Maybe its possible/allowed to post a screenshot of the post (and with presumable more pictures?) here? That would be great!
 
There you go.
 

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Wow, thanks Thibaut!

Despite having looked at many Gulls in recent years, my comments here often come out more confident than they are intendet to be. So I am grateful that Lou and others here take time to comment and confirm or correct my ID.
And one problem in NE-Germany is always, what is variation and what a result of Herring Gull and of course if my ID as a Caspian Gull is right.

presumed 2cy Caspian Gull (with partially dark axillaries), ageing correct?(Prenzlau, NE-Germany, 27.06.2018)

presumed 2cy Caspian x Herring Gull (Prenzlau, NE-Germany, 24.09.2017)
 
presumed 2cy Caspian Gull (with partially dark axillaries), ageing correct?(Prenzlau, NE-Germany, 27.06.2018)
Ageing is correct. The species isn’t. It’s an interesting plumage so I would encourage you to have another look and another take at this bird. A good look at the primaries and tail should provide a critical clue for the identification.
presumed 2cy Caspian x Herring Gull (Prenzlau, NE-Germany, 24.09.2017)
It looks about right for 2cy Caspian to me. The plumage is fine and what can be seen of the structure looks all right too.
Why do you suspect it’s a hybrid? The eye-mask maybe? If so, then that’s not sufficient to consider a hybrid: many Caspian -even some adults- will show an eye-mask in September because their contour feathers are still very fresh.

And you’re welcome by the way!
 
Hello again,

so the first one is a 2cy LBBG? (quite extensive black in the central tail and quite a cold, dark bird, not brown or even warmish than some YLG?

Second bird:
The following points made me think of Herring Gull influence:
  • yes, the dark mask, but Lou has already commented here that this is also present in Caspian Gulls. Thanks Lou!
  • Short legs
  • quite a rounded head, although difficult to judge here
  • I see different pattern on the scapulars, some with a streak, some with a heartshaped center and also a striped pattern. But as said, a real feature?
  • yes, its easy to suspect a hybrid in NE-Germany.

Yes, my level of experience surely asks for a multi-professional support. So thanks to you, Lou and all. (and I hope no one thinks of "First Level Support" here)
 
Correct with 2cy LBBG. But what’s most interesting is that non only tail has been (or is still being) replaced to 2nd generation feathers - also explains why it’s so black - but most of the primaries are 2nd generation too. You can see the old retained P9/P10 on the left wing and at least P10 on the right wing.
Hence there is a good chance that it’s nominate fuscus/Baltic gull. Not as exciting for you as it is for someone who lives further west of course, but still a cool bird.

As to the other bird, it is of course possible that it has herring genes because hybrids are so common in eastern Germany (and elsewhere after post-breeding dispersal: I have had many of Ronald Klein’s ringed birds in France) but it’s not obvious to me with this single image. I would like to see the head/bill profile and ideally the pattern of the primaries (underside of P10 particularly) and rump/uppertail coverts to call, or not, a hybrid.
 

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