Whilst walking along the seafront today (not birding) I noticed this Yellow-legged Gull amongst the Herrings. Just west of the bandstand on Eastbourne beach, busy with holiday makers the lot. It came to bread and could be approached easily. In fact, I took these photo’s with an iPhone.
I think a lot of bloggers bang on about gull identification as if they wrote the initial break through papers of the late ’90’s. I hope I don’t come across like that but I’ll continue anyway! What’s most note worthy here, beyond the birds obvious “Yellow-leg” features is the moult of the mantle. This bird has already replaced 40% of it’s dark centred juvenile mantle feathers with anchor patterned new, 2nd generations ones. This is because these continental birds are older than our UK bred Herring Gulls, all of which present on the beach with this bird still had juvenile mantles with no sign of moult. Also the tertials (apart from being classically solid centred) are showing wear to the edges as are some of the greater coverts. That was in contrast to the fresh and un-worn plumage of the accompanying Herring Gull juveniles. Bored yet? Well my non-birder friend wasn’t too interested either!
At this time of the year, the advanced moult is a good feature that distinguishes juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls and is a really useful back up feature. But be mindful. Within a few weeks and certainly by early/mid September Herring Gulls will start to catch up with their older European cousins and they too will start to moult.
What a beauty! It goes to show you can find Yellow-legged Gulls at several reliable sites in Eastbourne currently, Princes Park, the seafront and Holywell beach on a falling tide.
You don’t have to read my regurgitation of the ID features! If you want to learn more, check them out at source. There’s an old but definitive article in a 1997 British Birds magazine by Martin Garner and also the Gulls book by Klaus Malling Olsen has everything you’d need to know. Proceed with caution, “Gulling” can become highly additive.