Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis
(last update: October 08 2013)
Larus michahellis - adult March
This website deals with the Yellow-legged Gull taxon michahellis, which is a common migrant from July to December in NW Europe. After extensive expansion of the breeding population during the last three decades, it nowadays can be found breeding in Belgium, the Netherlands and Britain in mixed couples with both Herring Gull (argenteus) and Lesser Black-backed Gull (graellsii). There are subtle differences between the populations from the Mediterranean, Atlantic coast of Portugal and Morocco and from the islands in the Atlantic. Most pronounced differences can be found in the taxon atlantis, now regarded as full species by some authors and birds along the Atlantic coast of the Iberian peninsular: lusitanius. Both atlantis and lusitanius are treated in their own sections on this website.
At the start of the calendar year, only very limited numbers of adult Yellow-legged Gulls spend the winter months as north as NW France. At the dumping site of Dannes, near Le Portel, large mixed flocks of mainly Herring Gulls (1,000's) from NW and N Europe can be found including adult Yellow-legged Gulls (few tens in January 2002). Other spots in NW France which hold numbers of adult Yellow-legged Gulls in other seasons, e.g. Etaples, Le Portel and Boulogne-sur-Mer only hold single birds in mid-winter. Scattered records in the Netherlands involve single birds along the coast at Westkapelle, Maasvlakte and IJmuiden. Inland records can be expected from dumping sites and along the rivers, mainly in the southeast along the Meuse. Numbers hardly exceed ten a day in this period of the year, although YLG aggregate on some spots with few tens. Numbers remain low in February, March, April and May, but increase after breeding. By June, over 700 Yellow-legged Gulls can be found at Dannes (year 2003).
Features of adult michahellis
As can be expected, there is no
moult going on in adult birds, from January to April. The
average adult michahellis finishes primary moult by the end of
October. By January, the outer primaries may show slight wear already,
maybe caused by their common habit to feed on dumping sites in NW Europe. The upper
tertials and inner coverts may show wear as well, as they were moulted
early September last year and are over four months of age already. The
winter head streaking, which was obvious and concentrated on the
ear-coverts, around the eye and up to the crown by September and October,
has been worn away by mid winter, leaving the snow white appearance of
adult michahellis as mentioned in many bird guides. Mid winter
adult michahellis is the classic, "well-known" plumage
of Yellow-legged Gull and in most birds, this plumage shows easy clues for
Michahellis at Le Portel, NW France.
Le Portel doesn't hold a large colony of Yellow-legged Gulls in the near surrounding. Colour-ring and metal ring recoveries of birds in NW France and at Westkapelle (most in the period July - September) reveal that birds originate from southern France (the Mediterranean coast near Marseille), eastwards to northern Italy and from Croatia to Switzerland. Whether other populations are involved in NW France as well, still has to be found out. Future colour-ring projects may answer this question. At Le Portel, especially the male Yellow-legged Gulls from southern France can be identified readily easily as they are huge, powerful birds, in profile not unlike nominate Larus argentatus from Scandinavia. However, scanning through a flock of Yellow-legged Gulls, some birds may be appear small-billed, round-headed with a 'friendly' facial expression and consequently they may be much more difficult to identify. Yellow-legged Gull populations with the smallest measurements can be found on the Atlantic Islands. See also the website of Nick Rossiter.
By March, many adult Yellow-legged Gulls return to the breeding grounds. The breeding season starts early for this species which breeds in southern Europe compared to argenteus, graellsii and of course compared to intermedius and argentatus, Fledged juveniles which dispersed over 500 km already can be found at Le Portel in July.
Yellow-legged Gull michahellis 13+cy CU9, Missouriweg - Maasvlakte, the Netherlands, April 29 2002 (51.59N,04.02E). At least from the early 90's, but maybe during the 80's as well, Yellow-legged Gulls (L. michahellis) can be found in the breeding colonies of Europoort, Rotterdam.
|Yellow-legged Gull michahellis 20cy TA (formerly T 4), the Netherlands. Picture: Pim Wolf & Evert Eijkelenboom.|
|presumed hybrid Yellow-legged Gull michahellis x Lesser Black-backed Gull graellsii S.0 adult, March 31 2014, Maasvlakte, the Netherlands. Picture: Merijn Loeve.|
|presumed hybrid Yellow-legged Gull michahellis x Herring Gull argenteus 9.8 adult, March 2014 - April 2015, Maasvlakte, the Netherlands. Picture: Merijn Loeve.|
|Yellow-legged Gull michahellis 7CY S1XP March 11 2012, Klenovica, Novi Vinodolski, Croatia (45.05 N 14.51 E). Picture: D. Štefančić.|
|Yellow-legged Gull michahellis S5W1 7CY, March 08 2015, Jakuševec landfill, Zagreb, Croatia. Picture: ringing team Luka Jurinovic.|
|Yellow-legged Gull michahellis sub-adult SRE8 March 09 2008, Italy. Picture: Adriano de Faveri.|
|Yellow-legged Gull michahellis adult 049H March 07 2011, Jakuševec landfill, Zagreb, Croatia. Picture: ringing team Luka Jurinovic.|
|Yellow-legged Gull michahellis 8CY 848H March 04 2013, Jakuševec landfill, Zagreb, Croatia. Picture: ringing team Luka Jurinovic.|
|Yellow-legged Gull lusitanius adult CZA November 2012, March 2013 & August 2014, Figueira da Foz, Portugal. Photo: José Viana & António A. Gonçalves.|
|Yellow-legged Gull michahellis adult, March 11 2012, Italy. Photo: Claudio Mazzaferri.|
|Yellow-legged Gull michahellis adult, March 18 2011, Maagan Michael, Israel. Picture: Amir Ben Dov. P1 missing.|
|Yellow-legged Gull michahellis adult, March 23 2006, Hauterive, Switzerland. Picture: Stephane Aubry.|
|Yellow-legged Gull michahellis adult, March 2008, Gibraltar, UK. Picture: Claudia Bincoletto.|
|Yellow-legged Gull michahellis-type adult, March 17 2010, Ashdod, Israel. Picture: Amir Ben Dov.|
|Yellow-legged Gull michahellis adult, March 22 2006, Chablais de Cudrefin, Switzerland. Picture: Stephane Aubry.|