Mystery Essex Gull

A comment

There was a great set of responses to Steve Arlow’s Essex gull here

When a first saw the images I said to Steve that it reminded me  of  some barabensis- particularly the Caspian Gull end (also called Steppe Gull- referring to  large gulls breeding especially over  central Asia and wintering roughly  in the middle east to India especially dominating in the Gulf region). The rather compact appearance bright bare parts, dark iris, weakish bill pointed me in the direction. However to claim a barabensis this far west , for sure you would want  darker saturated upperparts and black patterning in 7-8  primaries. So with that ‘feel’ to the bird, in the end I think I go for ID as small (female) Caspian Gull. Chris Gibbins is just back from an International Gull Conference in Zagreb, where they watched plenty of Caspian Gulls including some birds with bright bare parts in pre-breeding flush including bright yellow legs. He also thought the Essex bird best fit small Caspian, though seeing the full pattern on outer primaries would further help as others have said.

Had Steve been able to see the bird for more prolonged period, perhaps call and aspects of behaviour would have provided more clues.

So Caspian for me. Doesn’t mean I am right of course, but thanks for all those who wrestled with this bird and especially were bold enough to make a comment and have a go. Good learning!

Thanks again to Steve Arlow for some great images and a pioneering spirit

9 thoughts on “Mystery Essex Gull

  1. Yoav Perlman

    This must be a compact female caspian. It is very different from barabensis we get over here in Israel. barabensis would never should such a white P10, and would have black all the way to P3 or P4, with much more black overall on the wingtip. In addition, barabensis tend to be draker above (2-3 kodak shades darker), and in addition they have a very unique posture – they often stand at 45 degrees, with wingtips almost touching the ground and breast protruding forward.

  2. Andy Lawson

    The short tibia and body structure point to Yellow-legged Gull (as do the yellow legs, of course). However, the all white P10 tip and amber iris suggest Caspian. But note that white P10 tips on adult Yellow-legged Gulls are not uncommon (along the Thames, at least). I have also had one or maybe even two dark eyed Yellow-legged Gulls. But is it too much to ask that a Yellow-legged Gull would have both dark irides and an all white P10? Maybe. But Yellow-legged is still the best fit for this gull in my opinion.
    Regards, Andy.

  3. Andy Lawson

    Should also add that I feel that the open wing shot image also shows the (diagnostic?) broad, flat, ie, square head of a Yellow-legged Gull. Certainly isn’t right for Caspian.

  4. Martin Garner

    just to add an instructive comment from Brian Small

    “In Kuwait recently, I made a mental note of leg colour on those Caspian Gulls I saw. Predominantly, the colour of their legs was yellow, on many as equally bright as barabensis and heuglini; rarely the colour is the pinky or yellow-pink colour we tend to associate with cachinnans in the UK.”


    1. Martin Garner

      Hi Andy

      Yep I don’t think its IS a barabensis- just overall first impression, structure and bright bare parts, reminded me of them. Yep barabensis tends to have black marks at least on p4 and often on p3 Martin


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