Mediterranean Gull (L. melanocephalus)
Mediterranean Gull 1-3cy HRF1 2008-2010, Le Portel / Boulogne-sur-Mer, NW France. Pictures: Jean-Michel Sauvage & Ies Meulmeester.
Ringing data: ringed as pullus on 31 May 2008 at Rétszilas, Fejér in Hungary (46.51'N 18.34'E). Distance: 1318 Km.
below: 3cy HRF1 December 08 2010, Le Portel / Boulogne-sur-Mer, NW France. Picture: Jean-Michel Sauvage.
From late summer to September, a complete moult takes place, into so-called "third winter" or "adult winter" plumage. The head pattern resembles the pattern in first winter birds, with blackish mask behind the eye. The mantle, scapulars, tertials and all the wing-coverts are replaced for plain pearl-grey feathers. The secondaries are completely white. The adult primaries are shiny pearly-grey, flashing white at a distance. There is a black line along the outer-web of P10 (and sometimes on P9 as well). Secondaries, under-wing and tail all completely white. The bare part coloration in adult plumage: Iris brown, orbital ring red or orangey-red, the bill red or orangey-red with a black bill-band and a yellowish tip and the legs dull reddish or dark.
below: 2cy HRF1 July 21 2009, Le Portel / Boulogne-sur-Mer, NW France. Picture: Jean-Michel Sauvage.
From May to September, the first complete moult takes place, into so-called "second winter" plumage. The head pattern resembles the pattern in first winter birds, with a blackish mask behind the eye. The mantle, scapulars, tertials and all wing-coverts are replaced with plain pearl-grey feathers. The secondaries are as in adult birds, pale grey with a white tip. The second generation primaries are much paler than the first juvenile primaries, but still not nearly all-white as in adults. After finishing this complete moult a 2cy Mediterranean Gull in autumn has a diagnostic wing-tip pattern with a variable amount of black on P5-P10. P5 has only a small black sub-terminal spot, becoming gradually larger on the outer primaries as the black patch "eats up" the white along the edge of the outer-web, most prominent on P9-P10. In some birds, the outer greater primary coverts and rarely the alula coverts may show dark markings as well. The bill is orangey-red with a dark sub-terminal band. The legs are dull red or more obvious orangey-red. As with 2cy birds there is individual variation in this age group but it is less pronounced and mostly involves the amount of black in the outer primaries and the colour of the bill.
below: 1cy HRF1 October 25 2008, Le Portel / Boulogne-sur-Mer, NW France. Picture: Ies Meulmeester.
below: 1cy HRF1 August 21 2008, Le Portel / Boulogne-sur-Mer, NW France. Picture: Jean-Michel Sauvage.
In juvenile plumage, the head is uniform pale buffish-brown with slightly darker ear-coverts and a pale throat. Juvenile birds have a blackish smudge in front of the eye and white crescents above and below the eye. The brown colour of the head extends onto the neck, forming a barred collar running down along the sides of the breast to the flanks. The under-parts and rump are white. The scapulars and mantle feathers are deep brown with an inconspicuous dark sub-terminal band and a silvery-white fringe, creating a scaly pattern.
The pattern of the scapulars is repeated on the lesser coverts, lower lesser coverts, median coverts, inner three to four greater coverts and upper tertials which also show brown centres and neat silvery-white fringes. They contrast strongly with the central and outer greater coverts, which are predominantly grey, forming a pale bar in the dark inner-wing in flight, as the secondaries are dark blackish-centred as well (but with broad white tips). The inner primaries are largely white-grey, the grey slightly decreasing in the primaries outwards, reduced to parts of the inner-webs in the outer primaries P9 and P10. The under-wing coverts are all-white, but there are neat black tips on the under-wing greater primary coverts. The white tail has a clear-cut black sub-terminal band, widest on t1-2, very thin on the outer rectrices (t6 can be completely white). The iris is dark brown, the legs are usually very dark horn, the bill is blackish.
The complete juvenile plumage lasts for only a short period in Mediterranean Gulls as they start to moult soon after fledging. This post-juvenile moult is a partial moult into so-called "first winter" plumage that starts from the moment the birds leave their colonies in July and will be finished by late September. This moult includes most of the head and body feathers. The head and under-parts become almost completely white, with a dark mask of variable size and intensity behind the eye extending as very narrow streaks over the nape. The eye-crescents are white and the dark smudge in front of the eye contrasts more than in full juvenile plumage. The second generation wing-coverts, mantle and scapular feathers are plain pale grey. The rich brown centres of the juvenile wing-covert centres bleach to a foxy brown and the white fringes quickly wear away. In most birds at least some wing-coverts are included in the post-juvenile moult. The extent of this covert moult is variable, in a few birds nearly all are moulted, in others all juvenile coverts are retained until the next complete moult that starts in May of the next year. All juvenile feathers show wear by September, contrasting with the recently moulted second generation feathers. The base of the bill starts to turn paler and the legs turn slightly paler as well.
Note that the comments on moult are based on observations of juveniles from and in Western Europe. More easterly fledged Mediterranean Gulls may postpone their moult to first winter until later in the autumn and very fresh looking juveniles may be encountered well into October.