Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Glaucous Gull (Larus hyperboreus)

Latin Etymology: Larus ("gull") hyperboreus ("Northern")
Top: Adult Glaucous Gull (subspecies L. h. pallidissimus) at Akkeshi, Hokkaido, Japan - December 2014
Bottom: First Winter Glaucous Gull (subspecies L. h. leucretes) at Ditchford Gravel Pits, Northamptonshire - December 2011

Featured Subspecies Larus hyperboreus pallidissimus & Larus hyperboreus leucretes
Weight: 860-2700g  /  Length: 55-77cm  /  Wingspan: 132-170cm
UK AMBER LIST / IUCN Red List: Least Concern

The glaucous gull is a huge gull, being the only UK species to rival the Great Black Backed for size.   It, along with the iceland gull aren't resident, but turn up in small numbers each winter across the country, often mixed in with flocks of other gulls.  It is possibly most often the first and second years which turn up, and the key identification features, along with the huge size, are the uniform "milky tea" colouration without any black on the wingtips.  Due to their scarcity, you will probably require a fair bit of luck to find one of your own, so, like me, it's probably best to follow reports (and even then there might well be a substantial bit of searching through more common gulls involved...)

In Hokkaido the species is more common, though still not the dominant large gull, and also more used to humans.  The pallidisimus bird pictured above was sitting on the road by the coast next to a carpark, and allowed me to approach it to some extent.

Related Species:
Family: Laridae
Genus: Larus
Subspecies: L. h. hyperboreus, L. h. pallidisimus, L. h. leucretes, L. h. barriovianus

- Sighting Locations -
UNITED KINGDOM - Rare Winter migrant (under 200 birds)
 - A First Winter bird at Ditchford Gravel Pits in December 2011.
JAPAN - Japaneseシロカモメ / Shiro-kamome ("White Gull")
 Locally common Winter migrant to Hokkaido and Northern Honshu .
 - TOKYO/HOKKAIDO 2014 TRIP: An adult seen at close range in Central Akkeshi.

Further Notes: 
BirdForum Opus, IUCN Red ListRSPBWikipedia, Xeno-canto

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