Sunday, 4 January 2015

The Pale Gull Trio

"Seagulls, bloody seagulls!" 

Yes, seagulls! Now I totally understand how dull that sounds as the topic of a blog post, gulls however are a bit of a challenging bird to ID, particularly during the winter months.
For example, they take several years to mature and in doing so yield a variety of different plumages. Awkward!
Originally they were a type of bird I was totally unphased by, that was until Saturday morning.
Maybe it was the infectious hype from fellow birders on the fish quay or perhaps it was the fact that this was probably the only time I've really given gulls the time of day.......and now they FASCINATE me!!
Whilst on the fish quay I spotted 3 lifer birds, 2 species and a hybrid, and they were;

  • Iceland Gull
  • Glaucous Gull
  • Viking Gull (Herring x Glaucous hybrid)
The Pale Gulls!

Can you spot the pale rarity?
These three Gulls are all far north birds, hailing from their homes in Iceland and beyond to the Arctic Circle, not massively common around North East shores but they do seem to enjoy visiting North Shields Fish Quay during the winter months on occasion.

Glaucous Gull
Glaucous Gull
The Glaucous Gull is a large, bulky and thick billed Gull species. One key feature to notice with this birds winter plumage is the lack of dark feathers on the primary & tail feathers, giving it an overall very pale appearance. Lookout as well for the white ring it sports around its eye. 
As I say though, this is a large bodied bird, almost equivalent to a Greater Black Backed Gull! The size combined with the distinct pale colouration makes this gull stand out strongly amongst its more common peers.

Iceland Gull
Iceland Gull
Our Icelandic friend is a medium sized Gull, yet again its winter plumage is overall pale and the most distinguishing feature whether flying or perched is the length of the bird's primary feathers, they're long! You can clearly see the length of these on the above photograph.
The Iceland Gull also has a kinder appearance than the Glaucous Gull, this is more than likely due to its more slender beak. Giving it more dove appearance facially.

Viking Gull

Viking Gull
The mighty Viking Gull, also known as the Nelsons Gull, is a mighty bird. A blend of the Herring and Glaucous Gull, it's a hybrid species.  Unlike the Glaucous Gull it has a broad black horizontal bar on its tail feathers and slightly darkened primary feathers. Making is easier to distinguish at a distance.......allegedly! ;)

Viking Gull, showing both the broad barred tail and darkened primary feathers.
Glaucous & Viking Gull in the same shot, Viking Gull is at the bottom with the Glaucous Gull in the centre of the picture. Note the darker primary feathers on the Viking Gull in comparison to the very pale Glaucous.
Iceland Gull, showing pale elongated wing tips.