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Great Black-backed Gulls or Kelp (Cape) Gulls at Kniffiss Lagoon, Southern MOROCCO

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  • Great Black-backed Gulls or Kelp (Cape) Gulls at Kniffiss Lagoon, Southern MOROCCO

    Birding World published this article on the remarkable discovery of Kelp Gulls on the Atlantic Coast of Morocco - see link here http://www.go-south.org/papers1/berg...ding_world.pdf

    I visited the site two years ago and too claimed 10 adult birds - several of which were nesting on islands in amongst Yellow-legged Gulls. Whilst watching them, Robert Fuge and I were concerned at the apparent pink tones to the leg colour and the large size and bill size, but the short primary projection and short tibia convinced us we were watching Kelp Gulls.

    This spring, birders again visited the site and took more photographs and it now appears that the colony is largely made up of breeding Great Black-backed Gulls - a quite unexpected and quite incredible prospect. The species breeds only in Norway (32% of the population), Scotland (17%), Ireland and Iceland (17%) but has relatively recently colonized the rocky islets on the Brittany coast in France.

  • #2
    Originally posted by LeeEvans View Post
    Birding World published this article on the remarkable discovery of Kelp Gulls on the Atlantic Coast of Morocco - see link here http://www.go-south.org/papers1/berg...ding_world.pdf

    I visited the site two years ago and too claimed 10 adult birds - several of which were nesting on islands in amongst Yellow-legged Gulls. Whilst watching them, Robert Fuge and I were concerned at the apparent pink tones to the leg colour and the large size and bill size, but the short primary projection and short tibia convinced us we were watching Kelp Gulls.

    This spring, birders again visited the site and took more photographs and it now appears that the colony is largely made up of breeding Great Black-backed Gulls - a quite unexpected and quite incredible prospect. The species breeds only in Norway (32% of the population), Scotland (17%), Ireland and Iceland (17%) but has relatively recently colonized the rocky islets on the Brittany coast in France.

    hi lee,

    i have read that article with interest and, looking at the 1st pic, kelp gull seems indeed the better fit considering the small p10 mirror (large all white tip in GBBG), legs look greenish yellow on my screen. a short primary projection would fit either species.

    the southernmost breeding place of GBBG indeed is brittany coast in europe, in N america slightly more southern to cape cod. but it also breeds in all countries around the balticum and eastwards to the white sea (russian federation).

    do you know of any pics from this spring by the birders who revisited the marrocan colony?

    regards,

    lou

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    • #3
      Apparently Lee Gregory got some reasonable pictures this spring which did get placed on the Surfbirds Gallery briefly before being removed. I hear on the grapevyne that they are being used in an article being prepared for Birding World......

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      • #4
        Lee

        These three images are the only ones from the WP on surfbirds files.

        http://surfbirds.com/media/gallery_p...1223020223.jpg - Banc d'Arguin, Jochen Dierschke

        http://surfbirds.com/media/gallery_p...1223020302.jpg - ditto

        http://surfbirds.com/media/gallery_p...0310043750.jpg - Khniffis lagoon, Fabian Schneider - seems to show pinkish legs, but not quite what you might expect on GBBG.

        Brian S

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Brian S View Post

          http://surfbirds.com/media/gallery_p...0310043750.jpg - Khniffis lagoon, Fabian Schneider - seems to show pinkish legs, but not quite what you might expect on GBBG.
          It also shows a large white mirror on the underside of the wingtip. Looks more like a GBBG to me.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Brian S View Post
            http://surfbirds.com/media/gallery_p...0310043750.jpg - Khniffis lagoon, Fabian Schneider - seems to show pinkish legs, but not quite what you might expect on GBBG.
            Here are some higher resolution pictures:
            http://www.netfugl.dk/pictures/birds..._de_lecran.jpg
            http://www.netfugl.dk/pictures/birds..._de_lecran.jpg
            There seems to be a lot of white at the wing tips, but unfortunately the photos are quite blurry. On the other hand, the white trailing edges to the wings look extremely broad.

            Here are some real close-up photos from this year (pages 1 and 14):
            http://www.go-south.org/tripreports2...es_2010_01.pdf
            The white tips to the primaries appear quite small, or at least smaller than on the average GBBG, but I'm not a gull expert (and can't specifically judge the exact pattern of the two outer primaries).

            Page 15 shows a photo of the display:
            http://www.go-south.org/tripreports2...pettersson.pdf

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            • #7
              The khniffis Lagoon gull is surely a GBBG. In fligh the tips to the secondaries do look very broad as CAU mentioned (as they also are on GBBG), a trifle broader than GBBG. However, due to sligt blur in the image possibly exaggerated. You never see a Kelp with such loads of white in the wingtip, blur or not. The two gulls shown here:

              http://www.go-south.org/tripreports2...es_2010_01.pdf

              surely are GBBG. Note the wingtip pattern with much white admixed at the tip

              From another continent:

              http://www.surfbirds.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4287

              JanJ

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              • #8
                Originally posted by JanJ View Post
                The khniffis Lagoon gull is surely a GBBG.

                JanJ
                I agree that the Khniffis Lagoon gull looks like a GBBG. I am attaching 3 photos of an adult Cape Gull taken in South Africa in January showing the leg colour and the amount of white on the wing.

                So, is the conclusion that there is a mixed colony in southern Morocco that consists of Kelp Gulls and GBBGs??

                Terry
                Attached Files

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                • #9
                  Khniffis Lagoon February 2010
                  Attached Files

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by petrelhead View Post
                    Khniffis Lagoon February 2010
                    To me, this bird looks like a GBBG. Pinkish legs, all-white tip to P10, relatively large mirrors..

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by petrelhead View Post
                      Khniffis Lagoon February 2010
                      Despite the yellowish legs, this bird too is a GBBG. Note the primary pattern.
                      A yellowish tinge is quite regularly seen in the legs of that species.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by petrelhead View Post
                        Khniffis Lagoon February 2010
                        it is a bit confusing if we talk about the khniffis lagoon bird because there seem to be more birds involved.

                        this here (febr. 2010): http://www.go-south.org/tripreports2...es_2010_01.pdf (page 1 and 15) has a large all white p10 tip which apparently excludes kelp gull.

                        but the original bird here (may 2009): http://www.go-south.org/papers1/berg...ding_world.pdf has a small p10 mirror and seems to be 5cy+ (adult).

                        the last photos posted by petrelhead seem to show 2 birds: both with large white p10 tips (without subterminal band), one bird has an all white outer web at p9 tip and a darker iris, while the flying bird (2nd pic) has a paler iris (uncommon but possible in GBBG) and a subterminal band to p9 on both webs. yellowish feet as said by peter are not the problem for them being GBBG.

                        now, what about the birds from may 2009??? are there more pics available than that single one with the small p10 mirror?

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                        • #13
                          AFAIK about three to five pairs of large black-backed gulls breed at Khniffis (but nowhere else in Morocko or even in the nearby countries), so like Lou wrote, it makes no sense to talk about only one individual. They were discovered in 2008, and until now they were all identified as Kelp Gulls. Like Lee wrote, an extralimital colony of GBBGs is amazing, but an extralimital colony of Kelp Gulls that have adopted a northern hemisphere breeding strategy located at the same place as the extralimital GBBG colony sounds even more amazing. Lee Gregory has not ticked Kelp Gull on his WP list at Netfugl, so it seems like he did not identify a single Kelp Gull in the end. Apparently he visited Morocko in late April and early May, so the GBBGs have been present for a long time.

                          I found also these photos from this year:
                          http://i265.photobucket.com/albums/i...ffisLagoon.jpg (nesting at the same place as in 2009)
                          http://www.freewebs.com/punkbirder/sahara2010.htm (a distant photo that still seems to show pinkish legs, scroll down a bit)

                          Originally posted by lou View Post
                          while the flying bird (2nd pic) has a paler iris (uncommon but possible in GBBG)
                          The pale iris should still support the identification as GBBG, as according to the BW article ssp vetula Kelp Gull should have an invariably dark iris.
                          Last edited by CAU; July 14th, 2010, 03:37 PM.

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                          • #14
                            I visited Khniffis Lagoon in late April 2009 and saw 10 "black-backed gulls", two of which were close enough to obtain this record shot:
                            http://img530.imageshack.us/img530/6...423kniffis.jpg
                            (photo by Pieter Vantieghem).
                            Both birds show a black subterminal band to a rather small white mirror on the underside of the wingtip, which should be enough to rule out adult GBBG.

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                            • #15
                              As far as I know, there have never been more than 10 adult-type 'black-backed gulls' at Kniffiss Lagoon in summer and these have been more or less resident since I published my report in 2008 and pairs breed. I did not detect any salient differences between the birds other than the leg colour anomalies but at that time, I had not even considered Great Black-backed Gull as this species was regarded as a gross vagrant to Morocco, with just a small number of records relating to immatures. GBBG was certainly not a species I would expect to be breeding so far south down the Moroccan coastline. Furthermore, I knew that Peter Adriaens had seen them because he and his team mates had very kindly supplied me with detailed notes on their finding and as I had seen Kelp Gulls very well in Gambia, we never hired a boat to get close to the nesting colony and only 'scoped the birds from the turning area. Robert Fuge and I noted and discussed birds with both greyish-green/yellowish and pink leg colouration and just assumed it was individual variation, as well as birds with varying amount of white in the outer primaries, but we were never close enough to get the eye colour, despite some appearing to have pale eyes, particularly those washing and bathing in the channel that runs between the breeding island and where you view from.

                              So, in essence, are we saying that both species occur there side-by-side, with perhaps one pair of Kelp and four pairs of GBBG; are they all GBBG or are they all Kelp Gulls of a type. I am totally unclear of the situation.

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