16 June 2013

Extremely worn Large White-headed Gull – Sabkhat Al Fasl

Large White-headed Gulls (LWG) are winter visitors to the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia where we get mainly Steppe Gulls (75%), Caspian Gulls (15%), Heuglin’s Gulls (8%), Armenian Gulls (1%) and Baltic Gulls. Almost all summer records of LWG are immature birds but last weekend I found and extremely unusual looking LWG that was in adult plumage. The problem was it was difficult to work out what species was involved as it had features that fitted both Caspian Gull and Steppe Gull. To me at least, it looks more like a Steppe Gull but this can not be claimed positively. The lack of head feathers makes the bill look very long a feature of Caspian Gull and the upper-wing pattern could also fit either type but looks better for Steppe Gull. This is the first adult LWG I have seen in the summer months and made an interesting interlude to a day of mainly seeing the common summer breeding birds of the site. I would like to thank Jan Jorgensen for discussion on this bird.