Pale Adult Kumlien’s Gull in Holland

Headlines:

  • Mega rare. Only 2 previously accepted records in the Netherlands
  • Identity of paler end adult Kumlien’s Gulls gets some airtime
  • New taxon for that province
Adult Kumliens' Gull, 24th December 2013, Scheveningen harbour, Den Haag, The Netherlands. Vincent van der Spek. Photographed in SW gale. Apparent grey subterminal bands on primaries, details of which became clearer in photos: full bands crossing outer primaries, p8 and p7

Adult Kumliens’ Gull, 24th December 2013, Scheveningen harbour, Den Haag, The Netherlands. Vincent van der Spek. Photographed in SW gale. Apparent grey subterminal bands on primaries, details of which became clearer in photos: full bands crossing outer primaries, p8 and p7

Vincent van der Spek

On 24 December I worked at home. I decided to spend my lunch break in Scheveningen harbour, Den Haag, The Netherlands. Nothing much was around. I did a last check at the jetty and… I couldn’t believe my eyes when an adult Iceland Gull flew by! IG’s are scarce in Holland, and adults are downright rare! I phoned some people and put out a rare bird alert. The bird was swimming at sea at quite a distance, but it was steady.

When the bird came a bit closer after 25 minutes it appeared to have some dark markings in the wing. There even seemed to be some subterminal bands on some primaries. However: the circumstances were hard. There was a south westerly gale (7 Bft) with some rain. We had some shelter from the small light house, but since I was on a pier I had to somewhat careful. All in all having a real good look and making good shots was hard. In the meantime my friends Arjan Dwarshuis en Hemme Batjes arrived. After 40 minutes it finally came close. I walked up to the swimming bird, but at an estimated distance of 65 feet it unexpectedly flew off: apparently it was a shy bird. I managed to make one proper shot of the swimming bird and a few reasonable flight shots.

Adult Kumliens' Gull, 24th December 2013, Scheveningen harbour, Den Haag, The Netherlands. Vincent van der Spek. The outermost 3 primaries, p10, p9 and p8 have outer webs darker and contrasting with paler inner webs.

Adult Kumliens’ Gull, 24th December 2013, Scheveningen harbour, Den Haag, The Netherlands. Vincent van der Spek. The outermost 3 primaries, p10, p9 and p8 have outer webs darker and contrasting with paler inner webs.

At home I was able to have a proper look at my pictures. I noticed that the outer webs of p10, p9 and p8 were indeed darker than the inner webs. There was a greyish sub terminal, closed band on both p7 and p8. The one on p8 was connected with the darker outer shaft. Because it was not a very dark individual, it had a pale iris, and the markings in the wing (outer webs; sub terminal bands) were not very dark, I was still careful. Mind that there are only two accepted records in The Netherlands (with a third one pending ) a very rare bird indeed, and – if accepted – this record will be a new taxon for the province.

So first I read some books and articles and I contacted several people, including Martin. I never got back to work that afternoon! The responds were merely positive: yes, this pattern fits Kumlien’s Gull! Darker outer webs can occur on p10 on Iceland Gull, possibly on p9, but not on p8. Also, the sub terminal bands are unknown in Iceland Gull.

Adult Kumliens' Gull, 24th December 2013, Scheveningen harbour, Den Haag, The Netherlands. Vincent van der Spek. Close -up of outer wing details.

Adult Kumliens’ Gull, 24th December 2013, Scheveningen harbour, Den Haag, The Netherlands. Vincent van der Spek. Close -up of outer wing details.

Of course most larophiles are cautious as well. Now this bird will without a doubt be regarded a Kumlien’s in Newfoundland. However, virtually everything we know about kumlieni is from the wintering grounds, we do not know the variation in Iceland Gull and we know nothing about hybrids between Kumlien’s and Iceland – though it has never been proven, it doesn’t mean interbreeding doesn’t exist. They are gulls – and gulls have other thoughts about taxa and species than humans do! And let’s not forget: many believe Kumlien’s Gull is a hybrid population between Thayer’s Gull and Iceland Gull in the first place.

Steve Howell wrote a great thing about hybridising Thayer’s Gull and Kumlien’s Gull: “We can’t learn how much they interbreed until we can distinguish them, but we can’t distinguish them because they appear to interbreed.”

There are people who say: there’s so much unknown about the whole complex, so let’s not accept this kind of birds until we have a deeper understanding about this. Other people say: there’s so much unknown about the whole complex, so let’s accept this kind of birds until we have a deeper understanding about this.

Adult Kumliens' Gull, 24th December 2013, Scheveningen harbour, Den Haag, The Netherlands. Vincent van der Spek.

Adult Kumliens’ Gull, 24th December 2013, Scheveningen harbour, Den Haag, The Netherlands. Vincent van der Spek.

My suggestion to our rarity committee will be: why not use a new category: the ‘kumlieni-type’ bird? This could be either kumlieni , a kumlieni x glaucoides or a thayeri x glaucoides, or even thayeri  x kumlieni. It does justice to the fact that odd birds with North-American blood turn up in Europe, but also to the fact that much is still unknown. And it even does justice to the fact that kumlieni might either be a valid subspecies, or a hybrid population.

What do you think?

PS No matter what, I saw a beautiful adult Iceland Gull of some sort!

Eds. To me this is straightforward kumlieni as we have come to understand for many years. Any adult ‘Iceland Gull’ showing darker outer webs to outer primaries, extending as they do a little farther down the shaft, especially on p8- and with full grey bands covering both webs of 2 outer most primaries- more than enough to secure a Kumlien’s! Do you agree? Have a different view? Let us know. MG

kleine bur Scheveningen 241213 nr 1b

 

4 thoughts on “Pale Adult Kumlien’s Gull in Holland

  1. Julian BIelewicz

    Great birding! At a time when my spirits were flagging, reading your account has re-inspired me! And I live some three hours [by car] from the sea!

    Cheers and all the best for 2014.

    Julian

    Reply
    1. Vincent van der Spek

      Thanks for sharing this, Julian. It made me smile. Keep your head up: you’ll see more birds that way 😉

      All the best for 2014,
      Vincent

      Reply
  2. Lars Per Norgren

    This is a fabulous find. But in the interests of broadening everyone’s mind: Kumlien’s Gull is a hybrid. Regardless of what one comittee or another may say, “Kumlien’s” describes the hybrid swarm that occurs between Thayer’s Gulls and Iceland Gulls. The identical situation occurrs along a 500km stretch of the eastern Pacific coastline (Yaquina Head, Oregon to Vancouver Island, British Columbia) where Glaucous-winged Gulls interbreed with Western Gulls. And more to the point, serious introgression is always in progress. We call them Olympic Gulls and they usually breed with other hybrids. I invite anyone reading this to visit me in Portland, Oregon between November and March and I can show you more hybrids in a few minutes than you have probably seen in your life. The majority of gulls wintering in Portland are assignable to no “pure” species. I often get the impression that the majority of larophiles are hanging onto the delusion that L.g. kumlieni is an actual subspecies. This is a serious invitation. Come and visit me. You’ll never see pink footed gulls the same way again. I believe that such hybrid swarms are the rule, not the exception with pink-foots. But only the Olympic breeds in a place with easy access for humans.
    I would be thrilled to see a bird that hatched on the shores of Davis Straight show up in Scheveningen Harbour. It need not be a tick on my life list to be be a treasured memory for the rest of my life. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to larophiles and larophobes all over the world!
    Lars Per Norgren

    Reply
  3. Vincent van der Spek

    “It need not be a tick on my life list to be a treasured memory for the rest of my life.”
    Spot on!

    All the best for the year to come,
    Vincent

    PS I might keep you to that invitation one day

    Reply

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