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 Identification

 
Rare Birds in Spain

Identification

Audouin's Gull plumage from March to July

Photos and text by Ricard Gutiérrez

Introduction 

Extralimital observations of Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii normally coincide with the time of its massive presence in their Mediterranean breeding grounds. With over 15000 breeding pairs in 2006, the colony of the Ebro delta (Delta de l'Ebre in catalan) is the largest in the world. Despite some birds remain thorough the year (e.g. 93 wintering birds in January 2005 in Catalonia, 86 of them at Ebro delta or 76 in January 2004, 45 of them at Ebro delta, download the 2004 Catalonia gull census here), most of the birds reach the colony in March and leave the area in late summer. In this period, some changes are visible in the shape of the plumage but an overall insight brings most of the birds keeping its plumage in good shape with the white wing tips of adults being perhaps the most abraded areas of their plumages.

Differences in the pattern of plumages of 2nd and 3rd summers are greater, since the extent of remaining brown coverts or the individual variation of bill pattern is higher. The following photos, mostly taken at Ebro delta, try to collaborate illustrating how the plumage of the birds may look from March to June, the month in which the chicks are large enough to be ringed, beggining the end of the breeding season in July.

March

Adult (4th summer or older)
23.03.2006 Vilanova i la Geltrú harbour, Barcelona (Ricard Gutiérrez)
Adult birds are in pristine condition when reaching Catalonia in March. This is an adult photographed N of the colony, at Vilanova harbour.

April

14.04.2005 Punta de la Banya, Delta de l'Ebre, Tarragona (Ricard Gutiérrez)

Adults
24.04.2006 Punta de la Banya, Delta de l'Ebre, Tarragona (Ricard Gutiérrez)

Ads and 2nd summer
24.04.2006 Punta de la Banya, Delta de l'Ebre, Tarragona (Ricard Gutiérrez)



Three adults in different wear stage
24.04.2006 Punta de la Banya, Delta de l'Ebre, Tarragona (Ricard Gutiérrez)

24.04.2006 Punta de la Banya, Delta de l'Ebre, Tarragona (Ricard Gutiérrez)

By April some birds do show abrade wing-tips or tail tips (lower photo) but most of the birds are in good plumage condition, coinciding with the laying of eggs at their nests.

May

1st summer (2nd calendar year)
27.05.2006 La Platjola ricefields, Delta de l'Ebre, Tarragona (Ricard Gutiérrez)

2nd summer (3rd calendar year)
27.05.2006 La Platjola ricefields, Delta de l'Ebre, Tarragona (Ricard Gutiérrez)

Third summer (4th calendar year)
27.05.2006 La Platjola ricefields, Delta de l'Ebre, Tarragona (Ricard Gutiérrez)This bird (AL89 = 5081170) had been ringed as a pulli on 22.6.2003 at Punta de la Banya colony, also at Delta de l'Ebre.

May bring the hatching of chicks and the need of adults to increase their foraging activities, some of which are nocturnal and some of which bring them away from colonies. The birds (particularly immatures) may look a bit worn.

June

30.06.2005 Punta de la Banya, Delta de l'Ebre, Tarragona (Ricard Gutiérrez)

30.06.2005 Punta de la Banya, Delta de l'Ebre, Tarragona (Ricard Gutiérrez)

Coinciding with chicks ringing session, late June show adult birds  in moderately worn plumage after the effort of chick feeding but still in good shape to undertake the autumn migration that will bring them to their wintering quarters later in the summer.

July


7.7.2006 Punta de la Banya, Delta de l'Ebre, Tarragona (Ricard Gutiérrez)

7.7.2006 Punta de la Banya, Delta de l'Ebre, Tarragona (Ricard Gutiérrez)

7.7.2006 Punta de la Banya, Delta de l'Ebre, Tarragona (Ricard Gutiérrez)

In early July most of chicks of the year can fly and many birds have left the colony, depending on their breeding success. Some of the birds look very worn, more than previous months. Others do not. Adults show growing secondaries contrasting with outer primaries.











Above: an adult at the nest within Punta de la Banya colony on 24.4.2006
Below, an adult at Punta de la Banya on 12.8.2005
(Ricard Gutiérrez)

Audouin's Gull plumage from March to July

Summary:
Introduction
March
April
May
June
July



 
 
 
 


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11.7.2006