Sunday 8 November 2020

3rd-winter Yellow-legged Gull

Identifying large gulls can be a bit fraught. Having made plenty of boobs in the past I do unfortunately over-think it sometimes. Like anyone else I have an aversion to cocking up, and big gulls are fertile ground for that. So I tend to be a bit cautious. Like last Friday. Checking through the Axe Estuary gulls with Clive I spotted a darker mantled bird which looked a good candidate for Yellow-legged Gull, though not an adult. Within seconds I was over-thinking like a good 'un. Was it perhaps a Herring x Lesser Black-backed hybrid? Or in some other unspecified way less than pure? I expressed my concerns to Clive and took a few photos for checking later. This overly-cautious approach is doing my head in a bit. Instead of coming to a firm ID conclusion in the field I keep going home with big question marks over a perfectly identifiable bird. I feel like I've got the gull-watcher's yips.

Anyway, here's the bird...

Yellow-legged Gull?

A number of features point to its immaturity, including the brownish wing coverts, washed-out legs, heavy black band on the bill and lack of obvious white tips to the primaries. Like a couple of other recent birds, my concerns were totally unfounded. It is a 3rd-winter Yellow-legged Gull. A few more photos, with useful ID pointers highlighted...

The combination of features illustrated here not only identify the bird to species, but also age it nicely. For any poor souls tempted to get into all this kind of trivia I recommend browsing the YLG michahellis pages of the Gull Research website. Excellent.

I suppose caution is better than over-confidence, but it's getting a bit annoying now.


  1. Very educational Gavin - a good read, thanks for taking the time to post.

    1. Thanks Mike. 👍
      I think I find YLGs more challenging than Casps, and any that aren't blindingly obvious adults (or mid-summer juvs) I usually learn something new as well, due to subsequent reading and double-checking! 😄