16 January 2022

Armenian Gull - Al Uqayr

Whilst birding the coastal area of Al Uqayr on 9 January 2022 we came across an Armenian Gull on the shoreline. The bird was very flighty and took off almost as soon as it had been located but luckily landed again. After several short flights we managed to get a couple of photos on the ground and then some flight shots. The bird showed a rather dark grey mantle (slightly darker than Steppe Gull), yellow legs (not bright yellow but obviously yellow), a large amount of black in the outer primaries and a single relatively small mirror on the outer primary (P10). Armenian Gull is often depicted with a dark eye but in fact several studies have shown between 10-15% of adult birds have pale eyes. The bird we saw had a pale eye as shown in the below photos. The very tip of the bill, in front of the black marking, was whitish, with a red gonys well developed on the lower mandible and only marginally continued on the upper mandible, and bright yellow proximal part of the bill creating a four-coloured impression. Armenian Gull is a relatively rare bird worldwide with 98% of the breeding total being concentrated on only four lakes in Turkey, Armenia and Iran. It has an estimated world population around 20,000 – 25,000 breeding pairs. The Turkish breeding population of Armenian Gull is about 2400 pairs on Tuz Golu, Van Golu & a further 11,000-13,000 pairs at two lakes in Armenia and 4,000 - 5,000 pairs at one lake in Iran. They winter mainly in the eastern Mediterranean with some spreading to northern Red Sea, and it is a common gull in Israel in winter with birds regularly seen in Kuwait each winter. Its status in Saudi Arabia is a scarce winter visitor with most records from the northern shores of the Red Sea and is very scarce in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia where they make up possibly only 0.1% of all large white-headed gulls. Birds become scarcer the further south one goes in the Eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula, so more could occur closer to the Kuwait border at Khafji.