The brown birds

Iceland Gulls love bread!

Sunday is the worst day for gulling, so I just checked the harbour from home today. Only 19 Iceland Gulls present – but they’ll be back tomorrow when the fish factory opens.

The 2. winter birds have puzzled many observers including myself during this invasion. Not only the number of 2. winter birds is stunning, but they also provide an identification challenge. Peter Adriaens puts it this way:
Many of the immature Iceland Gulls that have brown markings on the primaries, as often seen in Iceland and now also in the Faroes and other places in Europe, actually do not look like the birds typically seen in Newfoundland in winter, and are therefore most likely just ‘brown-winged’ glaucoides.


Big and heavy this bird is (Master Yoda-grammar) - a brown 2. winter Iceland Gull that was 1/3 bigger than the smallest Iceland Gulls.

I must say that this invasion has taught me quite a deal due to the sheer numbers of birds present – the whole spectrum of Iceland Gulls from the palest to the darkest seem to be represented. And maybe too many of these weird dark brown birds have been labeled kumlieni wrongly?

2. winter Kumlien's Gull - Hvannasund. Note the contrast between the inner and outer primaries.

At least we have a lot of birds with a brownish wash to them. But they need more than that to be Kumlien’s Gulls – there needs to be contrast between the inner and outher primaries. Maybe I’ll elaborate on that issue later. But it is not only the 2. winters that have this brown colours on the primaries. Even 3. and 4. winters can show it. And now it gets tricky, for this brownish colour could easily been seen as “kumlieni” markings on these birds. I’ll post some pics and write a few comments.

3. winter Kumlien's Gull. Note that the greater primary coverts are brown, but the outer primaries are significantly darker.


3. winter probable Iceland Gull. Note that the greater primary coverts are as brown as the outer primaries. As adult Kumlien's Gulls do not have any dark markings on the greater primary coverts the brownish colour on the primaries could be age related rather than indicating ssp. kumlieni.


A 4. winter with slightly darker p8 and p9 than the rest of the primaries. But again the greater primary coverts show the same slight darker colours. So again I'd say that the colour is age related rather than indicating ssp. kumlieni.


Retarded 3. winter. This bird is either a nightmare or every gullers dream. The moulting has gone out of hand with new and old feathers side by side. I would love to see this one as an adult.


4. winter (+) that shows some irregular brown colours on the greater primary coverts. p9 and p10 look a little bit darker than the other primaries. But I wouldn't call this one a Kumlien's Gull.


An adult Kumlien's Gull with solid but minimal markings on p10 and p9.


4. winter with obvious brown markings on p9 and p10. But the greater primary coverts also have this brown colours, so it could be age related rather than indication ssp. kumlieni - but admittedly the brownish colours are rather extensive.



2 comments on “The brown birds

  1. Dermot Breen says:

    Hi Silas, I would have agree with Peter, its all about the contrast, contrast, contrast!

  2. Chatterbirds says:

    Looks like the Faroes are the best place to study Iceland Gulls (and be confused by them!).

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