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Italian Gulls
Mystery Gull

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These three pictures were taken from a boat along the coast near Duino, Trieste (Adriatic Sea, NE Italy), on 12 January 2001 by Kajetan Kravos and Silvano Candotto. The bird appeared as a Great Black-backed Gull for both its size (since it seemed greater than the Yellow-legged Gulls, Larus michahellis, flying around) and its heavy bill. It is really a dark immature large gull.

mysterygull1

It's neither an American Herring Gull, Larus argentatus smithsonianus (the head is too white, and its shape doesn't fit; there appears to be very little barring on the lower belly and under tail coverts, which should be heavily barred in smithonianus. The scapulars also appear to be too dark) nor a Great Black-backed Gull, L.marinus ( head shape, primaries, secondaries and tail color dont fit).

mysterylarge

Is this a first winter bird or what ? The mantle gray feathers are darker than any smithsonianus/argenteus/argentatus.

mysteryflying

It does appear to have a more extensive dark tail like L. a. smithsonianus, but some other things do not look right. The inner webs on the primaries appear to be all dark. These should be pale and contrasting in L. a. smithsonianus. The rump is far too white. The tail is too dark for any Yellow-legged Gull (L. michahellis) and Caspian Gull (Larus cachinnans). Is it a probable 2nd winter Larus (a.) heuglini (for both its very dark coverts and tail) ? Maybe not, because the head/bill shape and wing-structure (and streaking) are not good for heuglini. Or is it finally a first alternate Kelp Gull (Larus dominicanus) ? These notes are based on the suggestions of Roberto Parodi, Martin Renner, Martin Reid and Bob Barber. If you have any ideas, please send an email to:

Menotti Passarella

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