14 December 2022

Heuglin’s Gulls - Uqair

Whilst birding the Uqair area recently we went to a new area where some public beaches have been constructed. There were very few people present as they have just been finished and it is winter so we thought we would look for waders and gulls. On arrival we saw a group of about fifteen gulls with a couple of Steppe Gulls and the remainder being Heuglin’s Gulls. A single juvenile gull was present that appeared in very fresh plumage, which is typical for heuglini until mid-winter (December  to January). It resembled a gull I had seen in Jizan at about the same time of year several years ago and that Klaus Malling-Olsen helped me identify as a juvenile Heuglin’s Gull. These birds appear in very fresh plumage even in December as they breed later than other large gulls and will often still be in full juvenile plumage or almost so, until January. There were a few dark grey-tinged new mantle feathers on the bird which further support its identification as a heuglini. Two of the Heuglin’s Gulls were much darker plumaged than the others in the group, however variation in upperpart coloration in heuglini is large and the late moult (p4-5 being renewed) support the identification, although a similar moult occurs in Baltic Gull which would be even darker, typically showing no contrast between upperparts and primary ground colour.