Yellow-legged Gull - Geelpootmeeuw (L. michahellis): 3cy January

(last update: 08 december 2003)


YLG 1cy May
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YLG 2cy January
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YLG 3cy January
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YLG adult January
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YLG adult December

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.

General description:

There is no extensive moult going on in 3cy birds during this month. 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 an almost snow-white appearance. The most prominent streaking on the under-parts is the breast-band. 

Moult stage and pace of remiges and rectrices:

The primaries and secondaries are all second generation now, as are the rectrices. The white tips of the tail-feathers are worn way, half a year after they were moulted.

Timing and strategy of moult in January

Basically, the wing-coverts are at least second generation in January. However, michahellis is a taxon which often includes wing-coverts in the partial moult. Hence, many birds show third or even fourth generation wing-coverts (often in the same tracts as 1cy birds show second generation coverts; see michahellis 1cy October). Subsequently, the wing-coverts are a mix of fresh coverts with obvious white tips and older second generation coverts. Normally, the older coverts can be found in the carpal edge (outer lesser coverts) and the outer greater coverts. The inner median and inner lower lesser coverts may look more adult-like, sometimes plain grey in 3cy michahellis in January. However, these grey third and fourth generation feathers may still show a delicate diffuse brown pattern.

Normally, most of the scapulars are plain grey now. Some old barred third generation feathers may still be visible, often in the rear row of the lowest lower scapulars (just above the scapular coverts). See Topography Section for explanation of feather tracts.


By April, only very few 3cy michahellis can be found along the coasts of SW Netherlands and NW France. The majority remains at lower latitudes. Those which are present at Etaples (about 5-10 individuals by April 30 2003), probably belong to michahellis from the colonies of Marseille and the Mediterranean coast.


No tables.

3cy michahellis in January. (75172 bytes)michahellis 3cy, January 04 2002, Le Portel, NW France (50.44N-01.35E). Not particularly the average michahellis, as this bird has an injured leg and therefore may show a delayed plumage. The colour of soft parts is still very immature.