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.
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.
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.