First age, then species...

Over the years I have learned that establishing the age of a bird is an important step in bird identification. When it comes to gulls it is often even the very first step. A first-year Caspian Gull Larus cachinnans that is currently wintering close to my home, has once again shown me that. With its white head and underparts and a hint of a greyish saddle, it clearly stands out from most European Herring Gulls L argentatus of the same age. However, because of these features confusion with second-year European Herring Gull is a real risk. Can you correctly age the gulls in the photograph below and can you spot the Caspian?

First-year Caspian Gull, Vijfhuizen, North Holland, 16 January 2021

Every now and then, a bird different from the rest comes by. For example, in many large gulls an all-white tail is shown by adults and subadults only. However, the gull depicted below is obviously much younger than that; most features indicate that it is a second-year bird. I do not have an explanation for the advanced tail pattern. All I know is that we always have to keep in mind the potential for variation in these birds.

white-tailed immature European Herring Gull

white-tailed immature European Herring Gull

white-tailed immature European Herring Gull

Immature European Herring Gull showing all-white tail (IJmuiden, North Holland, 1 March 2013).

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Published 24 January 2021