Part 1 - updated 25.1.11 Israel large Gulls fast identification guide

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Field identification guide to large gulls in Israel Created by: Amir Ben Dov and Yoav Perlman, October 2009 Updated June 2010 amir.bendov@gmail.com yoav.perlman@gmail.com Moderator: Mars muusse, Ehud Dovrat Special thanks: Morten Helberg – Norway, Risto Juvaste – Finland, Theo Muusse – The Netherlands, Hadoram Shirihai, Prof. Peter de Knijff - The Netherlands, Klaus Malling Olsen, Liebers, D Images: Theo Muusse, Mars muusse Gal Shon, Avi Meir, Yoav Perlman, Amir Ben Dov * Unless stated otherwise, all images by Amir Ben Dov © All images are copyright of the photographers Part 1

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This presentation was created to assist birders to identify mainly adult large gulls in Israel

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Some general notes: Images are not a replacement to identification in the field Image processing often alters colors. Slide 7 aims to compare typical mantle colors to Kodak grey scale, but in no way to determine the exact Kodak scale number of each taxa. Some taxa show significant variation in mantle colors, which can also be affected by light conditions Gulls show much variation in size, colors, and even in major ID marks. Do not be afraid to leave gulls unidentified, for instance: “Larus sp.” “heuglini - type”.. Mid January – late March, and especially mid June – mid September are very difficult periods for gull ID, with so many retarted, strange, moulting individuals that make ID even more challenging. And finally and above all – don’t fear trying, its great fun

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Basic gull topography Orbital ring Iris Gonys Secondaries R6 R1 P5 P9 P10 Mirror Moon Mirrors Advanced topography information in the following links : Gull topography 1 , Gull topography 2

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Caspian Gull P10 All – most white P9 – mostly white Black on P10 – P6 very little /missing black on P5 Very small amount of black on wingtip (smallest of all YL Gulls) Armenian Gull Heuglin’s Gull White mirror on P10 Black reaches P5 and sometimes P4 Black on P10 – P5 White mirrors on P10 and P9 Medium amount of black on wing tip Allot of black on wing tip Yellow-legged Gull P10 edge, All – most white P9 – white spot Black on P10 – P5 Wingtip patterns Large moons at P5-P7 Black reaches P5, sometimes P4 and even P3 (10% of the population)

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Head shapes Armenian Gull Yellow-legged Gull Caspian Gull Steep forehead, rounded head Relatively small bill Massive bill, big gonys Moderate forehead Long straight bill Flat forehead Heuglin’s Gull Large bill, prominent gonys Relatively steep forehead

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michahellis cachinnans heuglini armenicus

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Moult is one of the most important ID features Large gulls passes a post juvenile moult which is an incomplete moult, argenteus (more south and western) will moult only scapulars argentatus (northmost birds) may even skip the post juvenile moult heuglini has a rapid and extensive moult only after 7 months, normally including all wing coverts, but very often also tail and secondaries and even some random primaries fuscus is the most extensive one, very often including primaries as well michahellis, armenicus and to a lesser extent cachinnans include scapulars and wing coverts which may start as early as August in these southern species. First moult is from juvenile -> post-juvenile occurs in autumn and winter The plumage after this post-juvenile moult is often called 1st winter plumage In spring, a complete moult will take place throughout the summer, which brings birds into 2nd winter' plumage Then again, each autumn an incomplete moult, and each summer a complete moult (discluding heuglini and fuscus) In general northern and eastern taxa (i.e heuglini, fuscus) moult later than southern and western taxa (i.e. michahellis) Long-distance migrants often moult on wintering grounds Primary moult begins from center of wing towards tip: P1 to P10 usually one - two feather at a time on both wings, Primaries and their coverts often replaced simultaneously In principle young birds have dark eyes that become paler as they age For dipper moult study see the following Gull topography link Moult

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Comparison of breeding range to moult timing in large gulls Reproduced with permission of the authors from: Liebers, D., de Knijff, P. and Helbig, A.J. (2004). The herring gull complex is not a ring species. Proc. R. Soc. Lond 271: 893-901. Moult start North- easterly michahellis armenicus cachinnans barabensis intermedius graellsii fuscus heuglini

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Adult Gulls – average primary moult dates May Apr Jul Jun Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Michahellis (Israel) Armenicus (Israel) cachinnans P1 P10 P1 P1 P1 P1 P10 P10 Jan Feb Mar heuglini fuscus P10 P10 P3 P2 fuscus

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Moult directions Moult from Tail R1 (inside)> R6 (Outside) Total of 12 feathers, change starts when Primary moult is halfway Greater coverts GC counted from the inside out, total of 24 Secondaries marked S counted from the outside to the inside, total of 18 moult from 1-15 and 18-16 (when moult reaches 15 then 18 will moult and then 17 till they meet) Tertials marked as tt Total of 6 counted and moult from up down Median coverts MC counted from the inside out, total of 24, counted as % of renewed feathers as well (see above) Greater P Coverts normally moult simultaneously with Primaries – not used for moult score 10 Primaries, moult from inside out, mark the complete moult Lesser Coverts, 4 rows, counted for convenience as 24 feathers if for example; 3, 4, 5, 8, 11 are replaced, this is scored as 5 feathers, is 5/24 = 21% -> this is classified as category 1-25%, and this is the final outcome. So, missing a single feather is not really influencing the final scores; but if we want to enlarge upon individual birds, we can always take the original scoring sheets and tell the exact scores. Scapulars are divided as UUS, ULS, LUS and LLS, (upper upper, upper lower, lower upper, lower lower) We calculate % of renewed feathers, so we normally do not point down individual feathers in these tracts. We estimate the % renewed in classes: 0% new, 1-25%, 25-50%, 50-75%, 75-99% and 100% renewed. If a next replacement starts, we repeat this, but then we count 3rd gen feathers. R1 R6 P10 P5 S1 S15

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Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis, adult, halfway through primary moult Ma'agan Michael 9/7/10 Gal Shon © P10 P9 P8 P7 P6 starts growing P5 half grown Unmoulted secondaries P1 - P4 new and fully grown Primaries moult once a year from inner P1 to outer P10 All old and worn T1–T3 (also referred as R) (central tail feathers) worn will soon moult

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Heuglin’s Gull - Larus heuglini, adult, end of primary moult Ashdod 23/1/10 P1-P8 all new P9 almost full size P10 half grown

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Armenian Gull – Larus armenicus Main ID features at rest Bill – rather short, slimmer than michahellis and shorter than fuscus, typical adults show 4 colored bill (see slide 9) Gonys – medium size, but might look confusingly large at short range, and in juvenile males. Legs – from pink in 1st winter to yellow in adult, but never orange as in michahellis Eye – dark in most individuals, up to 10% will show pale eye to some extend, but all pale eyed individuals will have dark spots on the iris Size – smaller and shorter-reared than michahellis, larger than fuscus, but size can vary from very small females to very large males Head and mantle Color Color – head typically very rounded, adults mantle is rather dark grey, perhaps closer to heuglini than to michahelis. 1st autumn birds are seen in Israel from June. From 1st winter onwards they become much paler up to very creamy whitish brown when bleached Status in Israel - this is the commonest gull in most of Israel year-round, with large winter concentrations in fishponds, often inland. From end May – September juveniles are seen in Israel (especially Ma’agan Michael) and are certainly very confusing to identify from same age michahellis. Main ID features of adult in flight Wing – adults show dark grey upperparts, black on primaries usually to P5 and mirrors on P10 only, nevertheless about 20% of the individuals may show black up to P4 and 10% will even show some black on P3. Same works for mirror on P9 1st - 2nd winter birds show very pale upperwing, especially median coverts and inner primaries For more information: press here

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Armenian Gull – Larus armenicus, adult spring, Ashdod 9/3/10

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Armenian Gull – Larus armenicus, adult winter, Ma’agan Michael 1/10/09 Medium-short bill, steep forehead and rounded head Black band on bill characteristic in winter Most adults show dark eye Relatively dark mantle lighter than heuglini darker than michahellis, and cachinnans

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Armenian Gull - Larus armenicus, Adult, Ma’agan Michael 13/9/10 Note the wide black band on the bill tip Paler eyed bird with dark spots on the iris can be seen in about 10% of the population This bird is in the process of the complete moult that takes place from late June – November

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Armenian Gull – Larus armenicus, adult winter, Ashdod 6/1/10 Black on P10 – P5 or P4 * up to 10% will show some black on P3 as well P10 – white mirror * some birds will show mirror on P9 as well Much black on wing tip

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Armenian Gull – Larus armenicus, 1st summer birds, Ma’agan Michael 14/4/09 Often dark markings around eye and on ear coverts

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Armenian Gull – Larus armenicus, 1st winter Ashdod 12/9/08

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Armenian Gull – Larus armenicus, 1st summer, Ma’agan Michael 24/4/09

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Armenian Gull – Larus armenicus, 1st summer, Ma’agan Michael 14/4/09 Between mid April – late August heavily worn and very bleached Inner primaries P1-P3 are new This armenicus is in its complete moult stage, started perhaps in early march Central median coverts are new

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Armenian Gull – Larus armenicus, advanced 2nd winter, Ashdod 02/10/09

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Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis Main ID features at rest Bill – massive, yellow-orange in summer and early autumn, longer than armenicus but not as cachinnans, quite similar to heuglini Gonys – prominent Legs - thick yellow orange in summer, yellow – pale yellow in early autumn Eye – large, pale to white iris, orbital ring red in summer (when most common in Israel) Size – large gull, same size group of heuglini and male cachinnans Mantle Color – moderately pale mantle colors, darker than cachinnans paler than armenicus Status in Israel – summer and autumn visitor from mid April – 3rd week of July. The only breeding gull in Israel, from Tel Aviv to Rosh Hanikra, about 20 pairs estimated to breed in Israel (May - July). It is most dominant amongst sea shore gulls (only armenicus can also be seen during this period). Resident population in the Tel Aviv area and Maagan Michael. On the 24.10.10 and onwards a group of 26- 30 birds of all ages were found by Keren Or in the Ramat Gan Safari, 2 of the Tel Aviv Univ. ringed juveniles were seen amongst them which confirms that these are the Zoological Garden population, which also winter in Israel (steady population) Main ID features of adult in flight Wing – black wingtip with white mirrors on P10 and P9, black reaches P5 When comparing michahellis and heuglini both species share similar amount of black on wing, though heuglini shows white on P10 only Juvenile – it is important to further discuss the ID of juveniles and 1st autumn birds of this species, as they are seen in Israel from mid June – mid September, mostly seen among juveniles and 1st autumn armenicus that also accumulate along the Israeli Mediterranean coast (Rosh Hanikra, Acre, Atilt, Ma’agan Michael) during the same period. In general it is a larger bird than armenicus, bill massive and gonys much stronger Colors are very similar at this age and unlike mentioned in the book of Gulls (Olsen and Larsson 2004), the juveniles are not much paler, such difference can be seen only from 2nd winter These 2 species are not as easy to distinguish at this age as often described though bill and head structure being a reliable feature. Don’t confuse with 1st winter fuscus that are always dark For further information: Press Here

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Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis, adult summer (early autumn) plumage, Nachlieli Island Rosh Hanikra 17/9/09 Mantle and wing color lighter than armenicus darker than cachinnans

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Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis, 4th summer, Tel Aviv University Zoological Garden (natural population) 22/5/10 Massive bill, bright yellow year-round (in adults) The very last coverts of a young bird P10 - White P9 - white mirror Black on P10 – P5

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Massive head and bill Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis, adult, summer plumage Ma'agan Michael 22/5/09

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Yellow-legged Gull – Larus michaellis, Tel Aviv University Zoological Garden (natural population) 5/6/10

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Yellow-legged Gull – Larus michahellis, winter plumage (fairly rare winterer in Israel) Ashdod 30/10/09

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Yellow-legged Gull – Larus michahellis, winter plumage (fairly rare winterer in Israel) Jaffa Port 4/2/10, Yoav Perlman ©

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Larus michahellis 2nd CY Ashdod 16/11/09

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Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis, 2nd summer (3CY), extensive moult Safari, Ramat Gan (natural population) 4/6/10

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Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis, fledgling, Tel Aviv University Zoological Garden (natural population) 18/6/10

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Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis, Fledgling, Tel Aviv University Zoological Garden (natural population) 18/6/10

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Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis, adult and 2 fledglings, Ma'agan Michael 6/6/08

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Caspian Gull - Larus cachinnans Main ID features at rest Bill – long and very straight. Yellow in winter changes to yellow-orange in spring. Forehead rather flat. The small head and long bill give an impression of a very long bill Gonys – extremely small and hardly noticeable from distance. Legs – slender, in winter (when mostly seen) pale yellow, longer and thicker legs than fuscus Eye – Pale to darkish iris (often darkish in spring) Size and jizz – quite big, slightly smaller than heuglini but males can be larger than female heuglini. General jizz of a long-reared and slender gull, with long wings and long, slender bill Mantle Color – The palest of all Israeli gulls, unmistakable with its pale silver mantle. Shows rather little variation in mantle color Status in Israel – a winter gull, very dominant in northern Israel, especially Acre area where the largest concentrations occur. Few hundreds seen also in Ashdod area seen from the 1st week of December – late March Main ID features of adult in flight Wing – adult is easily identified in flight, very pale grey upperwing, very little black on the underwing, though black reaches P5. Dominant grey moons on primaries give the impression of very little black on wingtip White mirrors on P10 and P9, often totally white-tipped

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Caspian Gull - Larus cachinnans, Ashdod 30/1/10 Long slender bill in comparison to all adult gulls seen in Israel Small gonys Adult uniformly pale mantle, wings and coverts (palest of all Israeli large white-headed gulls)

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Caspian Gull - Larus cachinnans, very large male Ashdod 19/3/08

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Comparison between cachinnans (upper photo) and michahellis (lower photo) taken at the same date and light conditions note the difference in: Head shape Bill color Bill length Leg color Leg thickness Upperparts color Eye color Ashdod 11/12/09

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Caspian Gull - Larus cachinnans, Ashdod 6/1/10 Much white, little black

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Caspian Gull - Larus cachinnans, Ashdod 7/3/10 Very easy to identify in flight P10 + P9 with white tip black on P10-P5 Very little black on wing tip

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Caspian Gull - Larus cachinnans, Ashdod 23/1/10 Adults have pink or yellow legs

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Steppe Gull - Larus barabensis Main ID features at rest Bill – as this taxon belongs to the cachinnans group, as expected the bill is long and very straight. Most adult birds have 3 colored bill tip red gonys, black between gonys and tip, and white nail – bill tip Gonys – very small as in cachinnans Legs – moderately thin and short, similar to fuscus Eye – usually dark (but not black) iris, sometimes pale. Eye very small in comparison to other gulls, and located in the front of the head (very good ID feature). Thin red orbital ring. Size and jizz– medium sized gull, intermediate between armenicus and small cachinnans. Often stands in a peculiar 45º posture tilted forward (not mentioned in literature) Head and mantle Color – moderately dark, bluish touch, intermediate between armenicus and heuglini. Sometimes nape and back of head with faint streaks Status in Israel – more common in autumn (mainly November) though can be seen frequently in winter and spring too, both in Eilat and along the Mediterranean coast (September – March) Main ID features of adult in flight Wing – extensive black primaries, reaches P3 (much black) with white mirror on P10

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Steppe Gull - Larus barabensis, bird rehabilitated in NPA’s Afek Wildlife Hospital, ringed and released by Yoav Perlman at Ashdod seashore 16/2/08 Long, straight bill resembles cachinnans Small eye in comparison to all other YL Gulls

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Steppe Gull – Larus barabensis, Acre sea shore 7/2/09

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Steppe Gull – Larus barabensis, Ashdod 16/3/10

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Steppe Gull - Larus barabensis, Eilat north beach 1/3/08 P10 - white mirror P9 – usually no mirror Black reaches P3

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Steppe Gull – Larus barabensis, Ashdod 16/3/10 P3 shows black P4 P5 P6 P7 P8 P9 P10 Bluish mantle and wings

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Herring Gull – Larus argentatus Main ID features at rest General Notes – ssp. argentatus (North Europe) is more likely to occur in Israel (one record, see notes below). ssp. argenteus (West Europe, mainly England) was never recorded in Israel and is less likely to occur. Head and Bill – head and nape show extensive brown marking in winter plumage, Gonys – noticeable with red spot year round, in winter shows faint black ring on bill tip Legs – pink both in argentatus and argenteus Eye – very pale white Size – large gull, as big as michahellis Mantle Color – pale grey, resembles michahellis darker in argentatus than in argenteus Status in Israel – ssp. argentatus recorded only once by Ehud Dovrat et al. on 3/1/1987 Ashdod former sewage ponds Main ID features of adult in flight Wing – black reaches P5,mirrors on P10 and P9. In argentatus P10 is white to the tip. In Argenteus P10 black at tip argentatus shows darker mantle than argenteus and less black on wingtip

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Herring Gull - Larus argentatus argentatus, North France 3/1/2002 Image by Mars Muusse © head streaking, shared only by immature heuglini and fuscus, in such extent mantle colors Kodak grey scale 5-7 Very pale eye Pink Legs

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Larus argentatus argentatus, 1st CY 26/11/2006 Belgium (Ringed at North Russia) Image by Mars Muusse © Larus argentatus argentatus wing pattern, U.K 6/1/92 Open wings images by Peter Stewarte ©

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Larus argentatus argentatus, 3rd CY, the Netherlands, 31/12/2008 Image by Mars Muusse ©

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Herring Gull - Larus argentatus argenteus Brighton England 26/11/08 Very pale eye Brown marking on head and nape Pale mantle colors Kodak grey scale 4-6 Pink Legs

Summary: Israel is a unique location to watch large gulls in the WP, offering identification challenges of some of the least known gull taxa, easily observed in more than 7 locations from September to late March. This fast identification guide aims to assist birders of all levels to find their way through the large gull group. First created 3/9/09 Last updated 25/1/11 Enjoy !

Tags: birds birding gulls of israel

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