Friday, 4 September 2015

Yellow-legged Gull (Goéland leucophée) at Findhorn, Scotland

01 August 2015
Findhorn, Moray, Scotland

     As readers of my recent trip report will know we ate lunch near the beach at this location and were entertained by the antics of the gulls. One individual in particular captured our attention and it was eating something. In following it around to try to ascertain what was being devoured we took several pictures.
     It was only when we (Richard, Miriam and I) downloaded our pictures we started to suspect that this bird was a Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis. A close examination of the images in Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America  (Klaus Malling Olsen and Hans Larsson) seemed to confirm this.

     The first picture below was taken by Miriam and the second by Richard. Both show very clearly the diagnostic double mirror on P10.

     I forwarded a set of images to Ron Pittaway and Jean Iron, well-respected Canadian gull authorities, and I am reproducing below their reply.

Hi David,

It looks fine for a Yellow-legged Gull. Too dark mantled for a Herring and too pale for a Lesser Black-backed. And it has two white mirrors typical of Yellow-legged whereas Lesser has one mirror on primary 10.

Happy summer,

Jean and Ron

    There are some in Scotland to whom Richard has submitted pictures who have their doubts and consider it a Lesser Black-backed Gull, but I remain convinced, fortified by Ron and Jean's opinion, that it is indeed a Yellow-legged Gull, quite rare for the area.
     I first encountered this species at Le Teich in France last year where it is more expected.
     This whole exercise probably points out the difficulty of separating some species of gull from others but an individual such as this one presents less of a challenge than gulls in various stages of juvenile and sub adult plumage.
     If anyone else cares to offer an opinion feel free to leave a comment below.


  1. Hi David,
    marvelous photos of this wonderful gull. Hope you enjoyed Findhorn.
    One day I will be there. Love the community.
    Best, Synnöve

  2. An armchair lifer! Nice..............

  3. Its a nice looking bird what ever it is!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  4. It certainly is a Yellow-legged Gull David, beautiful.

  5. Hi David, I'm not a birder as you know, but I Googled a Baltic Gull (Larus argentatus omissus) and it looks very similar to the pictures on your blog. I wish you a nice weekend. Gr Jan W

  6. Hello David, I can not help you here with the determination of the Gull but hope you get more confimation on your photos by other birders.

  7. La primera impresión al ver las fotos es que es una Gaviota sombría (Larus fuscus), pero si que hay michahellis con el manto más oscuro. La michahellis es la más común en mi pueblo y el manto es casi tan claro como las argentatus. Te pongo el enlace de las michahellis de mi pueblo para que compares el manto
    El doble espejo P10, es claro síntoma de michaelis. Un fuerte abrazo desde España.

    1. Hola Germán: Muchas gracias por este comentario informativo. Las gaviotas son algunas veces dificiles!

  8. Hello!
    I am charmed by photographs. Stunning!

  9. Hi David. Following the comment from Germán, I've changed my mind, and will be putting in a formal report for the Scottish Rare Birds Committee in the next day or two. I'll let you know what response I get.

    Best wishes to you both - - - - Richard

  10. Hello David, Congrats on your sighting. It is a beautiful gull, great photos!

  11. What an amazing bird... Really lovely photos. ...

  12. Looks spot on for a yellow-legged to me David. Certainly a good find so far north in Scotland. Nice one.

  13. Beautiful photos of the yellow-legged gull David.
    Greetings Tinie

  14. He is very handsome. And what a find! Your ID knowledge is superb ...this is what separates you, a professional, from those like me who are just one step above those who still call them all seagulls ( eek!). Thank you for sharing your knowledge and beautiful photos. I learn from you every time I visit.

  15. Congratulations for this "catch", David!
    But on the first pic, I see pinkish legs?? In which case it could be Larus argentatus....
    Are you sure it is the same individual as the following one?
    I am far from being an expert in gull species so I might be mistaken :)
    Hugs again here!!!

    1. It's the pink flower in front of the bird's legs.


  16. It is indeed a yellow-legged gull David but the answer you ahd has also already received. Your last photo I find really amazing beautiful! Also special to observe a yellow-legged gull :-)