3 Sep 2011

Steppe Gull - Dammam - Al Khobar Wader Roost South

Whilst checking the Dammam - Al Khobar Wader Roost South on Friday 12th August I saw my first large gull of the autumn. It was quite distant but I was able to see it had quite a dark mantle and yellow legs. These yellow-legged gulls out here are quite complex but this one enabled me to get a reasonable shot of its spread wing allowing tentative identification as a Caspian Gull (Larus cachinans). The bird is an adult and is in primary moult with two renewed inner primaries. The leg clour and length as well as mantle colour appear to fit Steppe Gull (Larus barabensis) better. Even though the bird was distant it appeared to have a dark eye and this can just be made out in the photograph. Hopefully I will be able to see more of these gulls during the winter and be able to become better at identifying them - time will tell.

JanJ on Surfbirds mentioned that this bird looked more like a Larus barabensis (Steppe Gull) to him due to shorter bill and shorter looking legs. The bird in flight was in his opinion more difficult, since the primary pattern looked similar to Larus cachinnans Caspian Gull, since Steppe Gull usually has more black with shorter grey tongues. The bird is in moult with two renewed inner primaries with p10 (outermost) - p4 old. P4 lacks a dark mark altogether, which is not unusual in Steppe Gull although primary pattern in these might be more variable than is currently know. Taxonomy is an on-going process and currently barabensis (Steppe Gull) and Larus heuglini (Heuglin’s Gull) are subspecies of LBBG.

AbdulRahman Al-Sirhan from Kuwait kindly left a message below and mentioned it also looked more like a barabensis Steppe Gull as it has a darker mantle and the primary moult pattern fitted better for Steppe Gull rather than cachinnans Caspian Gull which at this time of year would have replaced 5 to 7 primaries. P10 at this time of year would show a negligible dark tip, this P10 is in line with Steppe Gull showing obvious dark tip. I would like to thank JanJ and AbdulRahman Al-Sirhan for their help with the identification of this bird.

 Steppe Gull (adult)
Steppe Gull (adult)
Steppe Gull (adult)

2 comments:

  1. Hi Jem,
    In my opinion this gull fits Steppe Gull. It has a darker mantle, primary moult pattern fits Steppe Gull more than Caspian, Caspian at this time of year would have replaced 5 to 7 primaries. Regarding the worn P10 at this time of year, for Caspian it must show negligible dark tip, this P10 is inline with Steppe Gull showing obvious dark tip.
    Keep up the good work, I am now able to follow the birding scene for the Eastern Province of SA.

    Best Wishes,
    AbdulRahman Al-Sirhan

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  2. AbdulRahman,
    Thanks for this very valuable help. These gulls are not easy for someone like me who has just arrived in the region and your much greater experience and help is vey much appreciated. Thanks for leaving the identification details.

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