5 Nov 2021

First calendar year Steppe Gull - Jubail

Whilst birding the Jubail area in late October we came across a first calendar year gull feeding on the tideline of a flooded sabkha area. Normally these birds do not allow close approach but this bird remained as I inched the car closer to attempt to get in a good position for photography. As a result I managed to take a few nice close photos of the bird, the best of which are shown below. The bird appears to be a first calendar year Steppe Gull barabensis, a taxon of which approximately 90% of the large white-headed gulls in Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia belong to. These birds leave their steppe breeding grounds in August, and are thought to migrate along the coast of the Caspian Sea, then cross northwest Iran, through the Tigris valley and on to the Arabian Gulf. They start appearing in the Jubail and Dhahran areas from mid-August and build in number through the winter. 

The status in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia of Large White-headed Gulls is as follows (percentages are my estimates only):

Steppe Gull – Common passage migrant and very common winter visitor from mid-August to April (90% of all Large White-headed Gulls are of this taxa)

Caspian Gull – Common passage migrant and winter visitor from late August to April (5 - 10% of all Large White-headed Gulls are of this taxa)

Heuglin’s Gull – Uncommon passage migrant and winter visitor from September to April (<5% of all Large White-headed Gulls are of this taxa)

Baltic Gull – Rare (only two confirmed records).

Armenian Gull – Rare (only one confirmed record).

 




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