part 2 - Updated 25.1.11 Israel large Gulls fast identification guide

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Slide 1

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 2

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Heuglin’s Gull - Larus heuglini Main ID features at rest Bill – strong and heavy Gonys – big and prominent Legs – long and thick Eye – pale iris Size – can vary from very large gulls (slide 3) to very slim gentle females (slide 9) , but most will look as large gulls Mantle color – very dark, perhaps the darkest of all “pale gulls”, can be as dark as fuscus intermedius Special features – in winter, nape and back of head are heavily streaked. From mid January – March nape becomes clean white, or with faint streaks on nape Status in Israel – main wintering population arrives November – mid March, mainly along Med. coast and Eilat. Migrating birds arrive late September, can be seen mainly at Ashdod seashore and ponds (Yavne 4). Only ssp. heuglini recorded in Israel, taimyrensis unrecorded yet. Main ID features of adult in flight Wing – black on P10 to P4 (and even 3), large white mirror on P10 and sometimes small mirror on P9. Large grey moons on P7 to P5, observed regularly in the field, unmentioned in literature. This distinctive feature can also be seen in barabensis and should be further studied.

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Heuglin’s Gull - Larus heuglini winter plumage, Ashdod 15/1/08 Usually large and bulky, streaked hindneck and nape in winter

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Heuglin’s Gull - Larus heuglini, spring plumage, Ashdod 15/1/08 Compare with previous slide: same date, 2 different plumages / moult stages

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Heuglin’s Gull - Larus heuglini, winter plumage, Ashdod 15/1/08 Much larger gull than Baltic Gull

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Heuglin’s Gull - Larus heuglini, Ashdod 30/1/10 Some individuals may show faint stripes on hindneck also in January Long tarsus Dark mantle and wing coverts

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Heuglin’s Gull - Larus heuglini, Ashdod 6/1/10 Large mirror on P10, small mirror on P9 Faint fuscus - like secondary pattern, medium-dark secondaries

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Heuglin’s Gull - Larus heuglini, Eilat 1/3/08 Black P10-P4 Large mirror on P10, small mirror on P9 Clear contrast between black wingtip and rest of upperparts (no contrast in fuscus) Large grey / White crescents on P7 – P5

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Heuglin’s Gull - Larus heuglini, very small female, Ashdod (Yavne 4) 19/9/09 (in the back - Baltic Gull) Extremely small females almost same size as female fuscus !

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Heuglin’s Gull – Larus heuglini 2nd winter, possibly male Ashdod seashore 2/1/10

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Heuglin’s Gull - Larus heuglini 2nd CY, Ashdod (Yavne 4) 11/12/10

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Heuglin's Gull Larus heuglini 1st winter Ashdod 6/1/10

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Heuglin's Gull – Larus heuglini 1st winter, Ashdod 8/1/10

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Baltic Gull – Larus fuscus fuscus Main ID features at rest Bill – long and straight, rather thin Gonys – small to unnoticeable Legs – very short and moderately thin Eye – dark till 2nd summer, in adults very pale but not white. Orbital ring red in summer and autumn, but red still noticeable in winter Size – medium sized gull slender with elongated rear, it is the smallest of all large gulls and the easiest to identify, when compared with the Intermedius and the graellsii (not definitely recorded in Israel) who are much paler Mantle Color – usually coal Black, but shows variations with individuals showing paler mantle, fron heuglini type (in intermedius) up to armenicus pale (in Graellsii) Special features – some individuals (especially from Norway) can be heavily streaked on the head and nape (see slide 42) Status in Israel – second commonest gull after armenicus, especially on migration, in autumn seen from mid August in migration and in spring until late May. Winters in Israel in large numbers mainly in Ashdod area. Main ID features of adult in flight Wing – very typical, the easiest underwing of all large gulls of Israel (see slide 57) – totally dark secondaries for further information: Press Here

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Black back Baltic Gull – Larus fuscus fuscus, Ashdod 19/9/09

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Baltic Gull – Larus fuscus fuscus, Ashdod 19/9/09 Image by Gal Shon ©

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Baltic Gull – Larus fuscus fuscus, Ashdod 9/1/08 Easily identified in flight - all underwing remiges black

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Baltic Gull – Larus fuscus fuscus 1st winter, (ringed as pullus on 27.7.08) Ashdod 27/2/09 Very dark body, wings and mantle

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Baltic Gull – Larus fuscus fuscus 1st winter Ashdod 2/10/09 Very dark head, body, wings and mantle

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Baltic Gull – Larus fuscus fuscus 1st winter, Ashdod 24/9/09 Very dark body, underwing coverts and primaries

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Comparison between 1st winter Baltic Gull and 1st summer Yellow-legged Gull Paler brown bird Dark brown bird Mantle and wing coverts with dark centers and thin white margins Relatively short legs Relatively long and thick legs Delicate head and bill Massive head and bill Baltic Gull 1st winter Ashdod 11/12/09 Yellow-legged Gull juvenile, Tel Aviv University Zoological Garden 18/6/10 Both can be seen together on Israeli coasts during late August to mid September Mantle and wing coverts with smaller Dark centers and broader white margins

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Baltic Gull – Larus fuscus fuscus, advanced 1st winter, Ashdod 27/2/09 Note active post-juvenile moult. All 2nd generation feathers very neat, recently replaced, vs. steppe - taxa which have the post-juv moult much earlier in the year (active moult in Aug-Sept) 2nd generation feathers

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Lesser Black-backed Gull - Larus fuscus intermedius Main ID features at rest Bill – as in fuscus Gonys – as in fuscus Legs – as in fuscus Eye – as in fuscus Size – as in fuscus Mantle Color – variation between dark heuglini to armenicus. It is important to mention that there are as many as 6-8 black / grey levels within the normal variation of this taxon, and therefore it is difficult to positively ID unringed birds according to mantle colors. Status in Israel – as in fuscus but much rarer, some tens are possibly seen from September to late March. See also next slide. Most are regarded as ‘intermedius-type”, with small female heuglini being the main pitfall. Best separated by head and neck streaking. Main ID features of adult in flight Wing – as in fuscus, but of course lighter Upperwing shows contrast between primaries (P10-P5) and rest of wing intermedius is slightly darker than graellsii, but it shares the same moult strategy in autumn

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No certain photographs in Israel Possibly very rare in Israel 2 observations of definite intermedius : 1. Ring J4N4 dark blue collected at Dugit sea shore 31°58‘54"N 034°48‘62"E on 2/10/2003, ringed as pullus at Rauna, Farsund, Vest-Agder, Norway 58°03'33"N 06°40'10"E seen since than every year in the nesting grounds during May - July Last seen in its breeding colony on 30/7/2010 2. Ring JV7K dark blue, observed by Ehud Dovrat, Ashdod 10 and 15/9/08 This Ssp. true ID and status of this taxon in Israel needs to be further studied

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Lesser Black-backed Gull ssp. (possibly inermedius) Ashdod 30/10/09 Dark grey mantle, Not coal black like fuscus

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Lesser Black-backed Gull - Larus fuscus ssp Ashdod, 27/2/10 P10 is little short (same length as P9) Therefore it may well be Larus fuscus fuscus and not intermedius

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Lesser Black Backed Gull – Larus fuscus ssp, Ashdod 9/1/08. Ringed in Nordfugløy, Karlsøy, Troms, Norway, in a mixed colony of L.f.intermedius and L.f.fuscus

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Lesser Black backed Gull – Larus fuscus intermedius (front bird), Stavanger, 2/11/02, Westkapelle, the Netherlands, Image by Mars Muusse ©

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Lesser Black-backed Gull - Larus fuscus graellsii Main ID features at rest Bill – as in fuscus gonys – as in fuscus Legs – as in fuscus Eye – as in fuscus Size – as in fuscus Mantle and head color – varies from dark heuglini up to paler michahellis. In winter shows extensive dark head streaks with white face; such individuals have never been seen in Israel Status in Israel – uncertain, individuals possibly of this taxon seen annually along the Ashdod - Ma'agan Michael seashore. No confirmed records from Israel of this taxon. Due to mixed colonies, hybridization and variation in mantle colors of all fuscus taxa, graellsii cannot be separated from intermedius if unringed! Main ID features of adult in flight Wing – as in fuscus, but lighter colors Upperwing with contrast between primaries (P10-P5) and rest of wing graellsii is slightly lighter then intermedius but it shares the same moult strategy in autumn note the “Dutch intergrade’ form Dutch intergrade refer to birds from the Continental North Sea coast, which are intermediate in grey tone between graellsii and intermedius

Slide 30

Lesser Black-backed Gull – Larus fuscus graellsii intergraded with ‘Dutch’ intermedius (right), and L. f. fuscus (left). Westkapelle, the Netherlands, 01/10/2009, image by Theo Muusse ©

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Lesser Black-backed Gull – Larus fuscus graellsii, 22/10/01, Westkapelle, the Netherlands, image by Mars Muusse © Heavily streaked head with white face

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Lesser Black backed Gull - Larus fuscus graellsii adult female ringed in the UK, 3/4/03 Nachtegalenkeet, Maasvlakte, the Netherlands by Mars Muusse ©

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Great Black-backed Gull - Larus marinus Main ID features at rest Bill – heavy and large Gonys – massive Legs – pink in all plumages and ages Eye – pale but not white Size – the largest of all gulls, larger than ichthyaetus Mantle color – variation between black as fuscus or paler between heuglini and fuscus Status in Israel – extremely rare, but since January 2006 an adult has been returning annually to winter at Acre port and coast from 3rd week of October – mid March Main ID features of adult in flight Wing – resembles fuscus in upperparts and underparts, though more grayish and less black upperwing. Extensive white on P10, P9 and white tips to P6 Broad white upperwing trailing edge

Slide 34

Great Black-backed Gull - Larus marinus, Acre port 10/3/09 Dark back almost as fuscus Massive head and bill

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Great Black-backed Gull - Larus marinus, Acre port 10/3/09 P10 – tip all white P9 - tip all - almost all white

Slide 36

Great Black backed Gull - Larus marinus, Acre Port 10/3/09 Pink legs Broad white Trailing edge

Slide 37

Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus Acre port 1/1/10 P10/9 – tip all white fuscus-like underwing but broader trailing edge

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Pallas’s Gull - Larus ichthyaetus Main ID features at rest This is a distinctive and well-described gull, shows rather limited variation Bill – long, orange with black ring and white tip, swollen towards tip Gonys – no special characters Legs – no special characters Eye – dark Size – the second largest gull in Israel (after marinus) Head– in summer completely black with beautiful white (“broken”) orbital ring. In winter and in all ages (from 1st winter onwards) head shows extensive black markings Mantle Color –quite pale grey Status in Israel – a winter visitor from late October – late March (but most arrive in January). Seen along the costal areas, in Bet She’an Valley and the kineret lake. In some years up to 2000 birds can be seen in the Bet She’an Valley. Main ID features of adult in flight Wing – P10 to P5 tips with very little black and massive white mirrors and tongues Extensive white primaries from third winter make it easy to identify at any distance

Slide 39

Pallas’s Gull - Larus ichthyaetus, Ashdod 15/1/08

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Pallas’s Gull - Larus ichthyaetus, Ashdod 16/2/08

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Pallas’s Gull 2nd CY - Larus ichthyaetus, Ashdod 22/1/11

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Pallas’s Gull - Larus ichthyaetus, Ashdod 22/1/11

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Pallas’s Gull - Larus ichthyaetus, Maagan michael 18/1/11

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Some images of unidentified gulls These images emphasize the huge variation seen in the field Not every gull can or should be identified

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Larus sp. possibly heuglini – Eilat 1/3/08

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Ehud Dovrat, March 2009 Ehud is the pioneer of gulls color rings tracking and of gull identification in Israel Gull-watching in Israel

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Major gull watching sites in Israel – where and when Acre area and northern Med. coast cachinnans December – March, up to 6000 armenicus October – March michahellis several pairs breeding on islands off Rosh Hanikra April – August Ma’agan Michael: sea shore and fishponds armenicus present year round, many hundreds in spring, many Thousands in winter ichthyaetus December – Early March, Up to 100 michahellis 2-4 pairs breeding on Pigeon Island April – August Tel Aviv metropolin Tel Aviv univ. and Ramat Gan Safari michahellis 7-10 pairs breeding, April – July armenicus October - March Ashdod - Yavne 4 ponds, seashore and rubbish dump – the prime gull watching site in Israel fuscus September – mid April, up to 1000 heuglini October – mid March, up to 300 cachinnans December – mid March, up to 500 barabensis November – mid march, up to 200 armenicus October – March mainly 1st - 2nd winter birds Lake Kinneret and Bet She’an Valley armenicus October – March (thousands) ichthyaetus December – early March, up to 1500 Eilat – north beach, KM 19, KM 20 fuscus strong migration in spring, mid March – late May heuglini mid March – late May Harod Valley armenicus October – March (many hundreds) ichthyaetus December – early March, hundreds

Slide 48

Caspian gulls – Larus cachinnans flock in an afternoon pre-roost gathering, part of a 5000 birds flock , Acre Valley 22/1/10

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Pallas's Gulls - Larus ichthyaetus, Israel highest record number (1300+) Sde Eliyahu, Bet She’an Valley 21/2/08

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Ashdod – Israel's top site for gull watching and for color ring reading. This site comprises of three sub-sites which hugely attract gulls 1. Shallow water ponds 2. Open garbage dump 3. Sea shore Development threats are hovering over this site (new highway, new industrial zone). Will it last ?

Slide 51

Mixed gulls, Ashdod: heuglini, fuscus, cachinnans, armenicus Ashdod 20/1/10 Yoav Perlman ©

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Reading color rings in Israel Most rings in Israel are read nowadays in Ashdod sea shore and Ponds 31°51‘09"N 34°42‘26"E Ben Zakai reservoir, alternative resting point Yavne 4 ponds Yavne 3 ponds

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Reading color rings in Israel In late 1990’s (12/98 – 3/02) 7 Russian and 6 Ukraine cachinnans rings read at Shifdan (former Dan sewage farm) and Ashdod (Ehud Dovrat). Since then all rings read in Israel are of Larus fuscus fuscus Best period to read color rings is from the 3rd week of September till late March The ring code consists of color and digits / letters As there are now too few free numbers left it became possible to read the same number on 2 different colors. Therefore it is essential to record both color and number. Rings starting with J ringed in Norway Rings starting with C ringed in Finland Rings starting with M and A ringed in Sweden Rings starting with V ringed in Denmark (seen only once in Israel By Ehud Dovrat) One of the world leading gulls ringers Risto Juvaste from Finland is leading a project ringing gulls in the White Sea area, southern Russia, and Finland. These rings are yellow KJ_ _ (ringed at Onega lake, Russia), white C_ _N (ringed in Finland), and white KR_ _ (ringed at Solovetsky island, Onega Bay White Sea, Russia) Red Rings with white digits / letters, starting with U (fuscus, armenicus, barabensis, cachinnans ect.), were ringed in Israel by Yoav Perlman after rehabilitation in the NPA Wildlife Hospital or trapped at Ashdod

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Armenian Gull – Larus armenicus ringed at Afek NPA Hospital 8/1/2010 Gulls color ringing in Israel Since 2008 red color rings beginning with U are being used in Israel Some birds were found poisoned / exhausted, rehabilitated at NPA Wildlife Hospital and released: fuscus, armenicus, cachinnans Other gulls were trapped at Ashdod: fuscus, armenicus, cachinnans michahellis pullus ringed since May 2010 in Tel Aviv University Zoological Garden

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Some links to recommended gulls sites Gull topography 1 Gull topography 2 www.gull-research.org (WP top site) Identification of 2CY heuglini gull Identification of 2CY fuscus gull http://www.berksbirds.co.uk/articles/caspiangullid.asp

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Selected References Olsen, K.M, and Larsson, H. (2005). Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America. Helm, London. 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.

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Enjoy gulling!

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: birding birds gulls of israel

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