Kamchatka Gull at St. John’s, Newfoundland


Alvan Buckley found this bird at St. John’s 4 days ago (September 16th 2014) and emailed the next day. Apologies for not getting it up earlier ( of living at Flamborough!). This bird looks right on the money  for the East Asian Kamchatka Gull. Here’s Alvan’s description: IMG_5566

Remarkably, it was standing right next to an adult Yellow-legged Gull (see last photo).
The mantle colour was very similar, if not the same as the YLGU.
Bill was notably thinner without any obvious markings or widening near the end (almost Mew Gull like).
Eye was dark!
Leg colour was definitely more yellow than the YLGU. In fact I would say that the YLGU legs were more orange in colour.
Legs were short and thin, could barely see above the tarsus.
Head streaking was slightly more dense on top of the head, but was present along the neck too and the streaking was generally smudgy in appearance.
Body was noticeably slimmer and smaller than the YLGU and HERGs.
From the in flight shots it appears that p9 and p10 are missing/growing in – so it is advanced in its primary molt for an adult at this time of year. New P8 is part grown.
and my response:
Hi Alvan
sorry for slow response- very busy as just moved house and lots migration going on outside!
This look remarkable and looks pretty much spot on for a Kamchatka Gull (as you hinted)- no problem with size- you get big ones. The dark iris was little disconcerting as they often have paler iris but think its ok.
I checked with top gull man Chris Gibbins and his reaction was exactly the same- look great for Kamchatka Gull.
Cheers Martin
More on Alvan’s Blog: Birding with Buckley

IMG_5572 IMG_5580IMG_5622 IMG_5620 IMG_5619IMG_5569

4 thoughts on “Kamchatka Gull at St. John’s, Newfoundland

    1. alvanbuckley

      Hi Brian!

      Thanks for commenting on the bird, AND for challenging the ID because that’s really when the learning happens!

      According to the Olsen book the legs are similar to nominate Common Gulls (L. c. canus), and photos in the same book seem to show legs that aren’t any brighter than on this bird. That being said, I do agree that the photos in your links seem to show noticeably brighter yellow legs than the NFLD bird – could this be due to the sunlight?

      Brian, do you ever see Common Gulls where you live with strikingly dark mantles are similar to a dark YLGU like the NFLD bird?


      1. Brian Small

        Hi Alvan

        In answer to your last question, yes I do see darker Common Gulls – most notably in winter and some can be large. This has lead to speculation about heinei, of course.

        The leg colour issue is real: the yellow coloration is not related to sunlight, they are actually more yellow.

        Cheers, Brian

  1. Nial Moores

    Hi Martin, All,

    Just would like to ask if you know or any other gullers know if any of the proposed ID criteria for non-breeding adult kamtschatschensis are supported yet by banded or wing-tagged birds of proven origin (i.e. from the breeding grounds, perhaps supported by DNA work)? If so, possible to share the paper(s) please?

    Wintering Common Gulls here in coastal East Asia are a real challenge. They show huge variation in size, bare part coloration, saddle darkness and plumage markings, presumably because they come to us from a potentially quite huge breeding range, extending well to the northwest (ie including some of the breeding range of eastern heinei) as well as the north and northeast. Which of these gulls in Korea (and coastal China and Japan) are certain kamtschatschensis? There seem to be a few trustworthy criteria for non-adults, but I wonder who would feel confident to claim non-breeding adults here (let alone outside of this region), unless they are pale-eyed and obviously massive? Though even in this regard, please note that in Malling Olsen (a) many of the measurements given for heinei are quite similar to kamtschatschensis, with a greater range in most of the measurements within taxon than between the maxima for the two taxa; (b) the range map is in error, or heinei should probably be very much more numerous than kamtschatschensis in Korea, an observation unsupported by observations of immatures; and (c) measurements for some kamtschatschensis were taken in Japan, where Common Gull is only a non-breeding visitor…).

    Although we do not usually see Common Gull quite so early in the autumn here in the ROK, the darkness of the eye, the heavy head markings (though lacking the neck boa found in many / most Commons here), and the relative smallness of the head would likely make me look twice at it. Happy for others to disagree, but I do not think this at the big-end sizewise for an East Asian Common Gull either – the largest of which can have the feel of a small vegae.

    What is being used to rule out a large, gawky canus as suggested by Brian? Or a heinei?


    Best wishes and birding,

    Nial Moores
    Birds Korea


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