Hellenica World

Larus michahellis

Larus michahellis (*)

Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Aves
Subclassis: Carinatae
Infraclassis: Neornithes
Parvclassis: Neognathae
Ordo: Charadriiformes
Subordo: Lari
Familia: Laridae
Subfamilia: Larinae
Genus: Larus
Species: L. michahellis

Name

Larus michahellis Naumann, 1840

Vernacular names
Internationalization
Ελληνικά : Ασημόγλαρος της Μεσογείου
English: Yellow-legged Gull

The Yellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis), sometimes referred to as Western Yellow-legged Gull (to distinguish it from eastern populations of yellow-legged large white-headed gulls), is a large gull of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, which has only recently achieved wide recognition as a distinct species. It was formerly treated as a subspecies of either the Caspian Gull L. cachinnans, or more broadly as a subspecies of the Herring Gull L. argentatus. It is named after the German zoologist Karl Michahelles.

Classification

It is now generally accepted that the Yellow-legged Gull is a full species, but until recently there was much disagreement. For example, British Birds magazine split Yellow-legged Gull from Herring Gull in 1993 but included the Caspian Gull in the former,[2] but the BOU in Great Britain retained the Yellow-legged Gull as a subspecies of the Herring Gull until 2007.[3] DNA research however suggests that Yellow-legged Gull is actually closest to Great Black-backed Gull L. marinus and Armenian Gull L. armenicus, while Caspian Gull is closer to Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull L. fuscus, rather than being each other's closest relatives. [4][5]

There are two subspecies of the Yellow-legged Gull:[5]

* Larus michahellis michahellis Naumann, 1840. Mediterranean.
* Larus michahellis atlantis (Dwight, 1922), syn. Larus fuscus atlantis Dwight, 1922. Macaronesia (Canary Islands, Madeira, Azores). Birds breeding on the Atlantic coasts of Morocco, Portugal and Galicia (and spreading north from there) are usually also included here, but are sometimes considered to be a third subspecies L. m. lusitanius. Atlantic Ocean birds have darker wings and back by comparison with Mediterranean birds, creating a more pronounced contrast to the white parts.

Distribution

The breeding range is centred around the Mediterranean Sea. In North Africa it is common in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia and increasing in places. Recent breeding has occurred in Libya and Egypt. In the Middle East a few breed in Israel and Syria with larger numbers in Cyprus and Turkey. In Europe there are colonies all along the Mediterranean coast, and also on the Atlantic islands and coasts north to Brittany and west to the Azores. It also breeds on the west side of the Black Sea; here it overlaps with the Caspian Gull but there is a difference in habitat, with the Yellow-legged Gull preferring sea cliffs and Caspian Gull on flatter shores. In recent decades birds have spread north into central and western Europe. One to four pairs have attempted to breed in southern England since 1995 (sometimes hybrid pairs with Lesser Black-backed Gulls), though colonisation has been very slow.[6]

Many birds remain in the same area all year round but others migrate to spend the winter in mild areas of western Europe or head south as far as Senegal, the Gambia and the Red Sea. There is also extensive northward post-breeding dispersal in the late summer, with numbers in southern England high from July to October.[7] It is reported as a vagrant to northeastern North America[8] and Nigeria.[citation needed]

Description

Adults are similar to Herring Gulls but have yellow legs. They have a grey back, slightly darker than Herring Gulls but lighter than Lesser Black-backed Gulls. They are much whiter-headed in autumn, and have more extensively black wing tips with few white spots, just as Lesser Black-backed. They have a red spot on the bill as adults, like the entire complex. There is a red ring around the eye like in the Lesser Black-backed Gull but unlike in the Herring Gull which has a dark yellow ring.

First-year birds have a paler head, rump and underparts than those of the Herring Gull, more closely resembling first-year Great Black-backed Gulls in plumage. They have a dark bill and eyes, pinkish grey legs, dark flight feathers and a well-defined black band on the tail. They become lighter in the underparts and lose the upperpart pattern subsequently. By their second winter, birds are essentially feathered like adults, save for the patterned feathers remaining on the wing coverts. However, their bill tips are black, their eyes still dark, and the legs are a light yellow flesh colour.

The call is a loud laugh which is deeper and more nasal than the call of the Herring Gull.

Diet
They are omnivores like most Larus gulls, and they will scavenge on rubbish tips and elsewhere, as well as seeking suitable prey in fields or on the coast, or robbing smaller gulls and other seabirds of their catches.
Reproduction

Yellow-legged Gulls usually breed in colonies. Eggs, usually three, are laid from mid March to early May and are defended vigorously by this large gull. The nest is a sometimes sparse mound of vegetation built on the ground or on cliff ledges. In some places such as Gibraltar they have started nesting on buildings. The eggs are incubated for 27–31 days and the young birds fledge after 35–40 days.

Notes

1. ^ BirdLife International (2004). Larus cachinnans. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
2. ^ Sharrock, J. T. R. (1993). Editorial. British Birds 86 (1): 1–2.
3. ^ Sangster, G., et al. (2007). Taxonomic recommendations for British birds: Fourth report pdf file. Ibis 149 (4): 853–857.
4. ^ Pons, J.-M., Hassanin, A. & Crochet, P.-A. (2005). Phylogenetic relationships within the Laridae (Charadriiformes: Aves) inferred from mitochondrial markers. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 37: 686–699. full article
5. ^ a b Collinson, J. M. et al. (2008). Species boundaries in the Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gull complex. British Birds 101: 340–363.
6. ^ Holling, M. (2009). Rare breeding birds in the United Kingdom in 2006. British Birds 102: 188.
7. ^ D. W. Snow & C. M. Perrins (1998). The Birds of the Western Palearctic, Concise Edition (Vol. 1), Oxford University Press, Oxford.
8. ^ National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America ISBN 0-7922-6877-6

References

* Seabirds, an Identification Guide by Peter Harrison, (1983) ISBN 0-7470-1410-8
* Handbook of the Birds of the World Vol. 3. Josep del Hoyo editor, ISBN 84-87334-10-5
* Alan Harris, Laurel Tucker & Keith Vinicombe (1994) The Macmillan Field Guide to Bird Identification, Macmillan Press.
* Lars Svensson & Peter J. Grant (1999) Collins Bird Guide, HarperCollins, London.

External links

List of Cyprus birds

Biology Encyclopedia

Birds Images

Source: Wikipedia, Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Index

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