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An intruiging gull in Iceland

A fourth-winter gull was discovered by Hallgrímur Gunnarsson on 11 January 2004 at Hafnarfjörður (SW-Iceland), and at first thought to be either a dark Kumlien's Gull Larus glaucoides 'kumlieni' or possibly a Thayer's Gull L. thayeri. It was seen again on 14 and 17 January at the same site and could be well-observed by many observers.

Field observations and observations from the photographs below, show that this bird fits quite well in some respects a fourth-winter Thayer's Gull which, however, has never been recorded in Iceland. Features on this bird pointing towards Thayer's are the very dark eye, black on P5-10 (although only a slight spot on P5), a black-subterminal band on P10 and a rather small white mirror (nearly) surrounded by black on P9 (which should not be on Kumlien's). The grey of the back and upperwing was clearly darker than on the neighbouring Iceland L. glaucoides glaucoides and Glaucous Gulls L. hyperboreus. Size and shape of the bird very similar (if not identical) to the Iceland Gulls. However, as this bird is in its fourth-winter, it might have to loose some of the black on the primaries as it will get older. The small size (identical to Iceland Gulls) is also a very poor feature for Thayer's Gull which should be both larger and more robust (cf. photos of a Thayer's Gull found later, in March 2004).

At this same locality were several dozens of Iceland Gulls, two Kumlien's Gulls, Black-headed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Great Black-backed Gulls, two American Wigeons among the many Eurasian Wigeons & Eurasian Teals, Mallards, Common Eiders and Purple Sandpipers.

It is clear that this bird will remain unidentified, although most agree on it being either an extreme Kumlien's Gull, or a bird from the Kumlien's/Thayer's hybrid zone in arctic Canada. But it is also impossible to rule out a pure Thayer's Gull with certainty on size only. So certainly an interesting bird from which birders in Iceland have learned a great deal on the Thayer's/Kumlien's/Iceland Gull complex.

- YK 13/03/2004

- click on the photos to enlarge -

Unidentified gull Larus sp.
Hafnarfjörður (SW)
14 January 2004

Fourth-winter bird.

© Yann Kolbeinsson

Unidentified gull Larus sp.
Hafnarfjörður (SW)
17 January 2004

© Yann Kolbeinsson

Unidentified gull Larus sp.
Hafnarfjörður (SW)
14 January 2004

© Yann Kolbeinsson

Unidentified gull Larus sp.
Hafnarfjörður (SW)
14 January 2004

Note darker back than on the adult Iceland Gull L. glaucoides glaucoides.

© Yann Kolbeinsson

Unidentified gull Larus sp.
Hafnarfjörður (SW)
17 January 2004

With a third-winter Iceland Gull L. glaucoides glaucoides.

© Yann Kolbeinsson

Unidentified gull Larus sp.
Hafnarfjörður (SW)
17 January 2004

With a third-winter Kumlien's Gull L. glaucoides 'kumlieni.
Note the different colour of grey, but the more slender jizz
of the "Thayer's".

© Yann Kolbeinsson

Unidentified gull Larus sp.
Hafnarfjörður (SW)
17 January 2004

© Yann Kolbeinsson

Unidentified gull Larus sp.
Hafnarfjörður (SW)
17 January 2004

Iris of the right eye shows a trace of yellow, rather than
being totally dark.

© Yann Kolbeinsson

Unidentified gull Larus sp.
Hafnarfjörður (SW)
17 January 2004

Note the black markings that appear to be on P5.

© Yann Kolbeinsson

Unidentified gull Larus sp.
Hafnarfjörður (SW)
17 January 2004

With an Iceland Gull L. glaucoides glaucoides.

© Yann Kolbeinsson

Unidentified gull Larus sp.
Hafnarfjörður (SW)
14 January 2004

© Yann Kolbeinsson