1cy European Herring Gull with contrasting plumage – 20130922

This first-calendar year European Herring Gull Larus argentatus shows extreme contrast in its plumage: note the cream-colored fringes of the scapulars and wing coverts, the extremely light inner primaries and inner webs of the outer primaries, and the banded tail.

Photos were taken in the port of IJmuiden, 22 September 2013.

Port of IJmuiden, 22 September 2013.

Port of IJmuiden, 22 September 2013.

Port of IJmuiden, 22 September 2013.

Port of IJmuiden, 22 September 2013.

Port of IJmuiden, 22 September 2013.

Port of IJmuiden, 22 September 2013.

Port of IJmuiden, 22 September 2013.

Port of IJmuiden, 22 September 2013.

Port of IJmuiden, 22 September 2013.

Port of IJmuiden, 22 September 2013.

Compare with these individuals photographed on the same day, showing a standard plumage pattern:

First-calendar year European Herring Gull, ringed as Arnhem 6173977. IJmuiden, 22 September 2013.

First-calendar year European Herring Gull, ringed as Arnhem 6173977. IJmuiden, 22 September 2013.

1st-calendar year European Herring Gull, ringed in Belgium. Wijk aan Zee beach, 22 September 2013.

1st-calendar year European Herring Gull, ringed in Belgium. Wijk aan Zee beach, 22 September 2013.

1st-calendar year European Herring Gull, ringed in Belgium. Wijk aan Zee beach, 22 September 2013.

1st-calendar year European Herring Gull, ringed in Belgium. Wijk aan Zee beach, 22 September 2013.

1st-calendar year European Herring Gull, ringed in Belgium. Wijk aan Zee beach, 22 September 2013.

1st-calendar year European Herring Gull, ringed in Belgium. Wijk aan Zee beach, 22 September 2013.

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4 thoughts on “1cy European Herring Gull with contrasting plumage – 20130922

  1. What is it that causes such a plumage variation? Is this a known colour mutation in gulls?

    By the way, I was meaning to ask you – do you know roughly what percentage of this year’s young gulls will be expected to make it through their first winter? Someone was saying to me recently that the vast majority of young gulls either starve or freeze to death in their first winter. Or get eaten. Or don’t learn how to get out of the way of cars. Or eat too much rotting meat and get sick. Or beg for food from adult gulls that aren’t their parents once too often. Or try to beg for food from something like a dog… Yeah, you get the idea.

  2. It is impossible for me to say what causes this type of plumage, especially without knowing its origin and parents. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is a colour mutation, for now I just consider this to be one end of the extreme in 1st-cycle variation.

    About first-winter survival in young gulls: I am not sure if such figures exist. The high degree of dispersal makes it very difficult to keep track of them, especially in case of Lesser Black-backed Gulls which roam as far as Portugal and typically won’t be seen until their 3rd calendar year. Figuring out their survival rate at a particular age and their cause of death would be almost impossible I think. I wonder where your contact would have that information from and if data exists to back up these claims. All I can say is that I see far less dead young gulls during winter than I see during the breeding season.

    • It was actually a taxi driver I was talking to last week who suggested it to me. I was telling him about the abandoned gull chick that I’d rescued a few months back and he said something about it being a real shame that most of the juvenile gulls around at the moment wouldn’t make it through the winter, as they’re so adorable when they’re young. I’m not sure if it’s true or not – though I’m pretty sure that it would be accurate to say that the majority of young gulls will die before reaching adulthood. Although they can live for decades, I read that the average life expectancy at hatching of a Herring Gull is something like 2 years (I wish that I could find the source of that fact again, but I don’t always bookmark everything interesting that I read when browsing!), taking into account the deaths of chicks and young gulls dragging the figure down.

      I’ve been curious about colour mutations in gulls for a long time – probably ever since I saw all the different colours and shades and patterns possible with the Budgerigar. I know that there are albinos and melanistic (dark morph?) gulls. I wonder what else there is hiding within the genes?

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