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Steppe Gull - Larus barabensis

Steppe Gull: adult Ashdod Rubbish Tip, Israel 21st March 2012

Similar to Caspian Gull is several respects. Note the dark eye with red orbital ring and small head with low sloping forehead. However it has a rather heavy, though parallel sided bill with relatively tapering tip, mid grey upper-parts, small mirror to P10 (see underside of far wing), and very bright legs.
Steppe Gull: adult Ashdod Rubbish Tip, Israel 21st March 2012

There are similarites to the bird above as well as differences.

The bill is long and slender and bright with red extending up onto the upper mandible above the Gonys spot. The upper-parts appear to match in some lights with the previous bird however here direct comparison shows this individual to have a slightly bluer quality.

The legs are bright orange-yellow differing to the more mustard yellow of the above bird. How much this is due to diet is unknown.

The white tips to the primaries are small and clearly worn and the mirror to the underside of P10 is larger and with less black towards the tip.

The eye is noticeably pale, perhaps indicative of this being something other than a Steppe Gull, michahellis perhaps, but the structure of the bird, as well as the slender tapering bill and smallish round head all suggest this is a pale eyed Steppe Gull.

I think its far to pale to be the palest Heuglin's Gull.
Steppe Gull: adult Ashdod Rubbish Tip, Israel 21st March 2012

Same bird as image 1 above.

This bird has the more typically expected dark eye, compare bird above, and more mustard yellow legs colouration.

In this angle note that the black of P10 extends all the way to the primary coverts whereas on P9 this fall shorts at a little over half way. P8 extension is similar.

Compare this with Heglin's Gull (extension of P9 virtually to the primary coverts and on Caspian Gull, well short of the Primary Coverts).

The mirror on P10 is mid-sized and almost sqaure rather than oval or circular.

P5 has a large black band and large white tip and P4 also has a significant black band, broadening on the inner web.

Steppe Gull: adult Ashdod Rubbish Tip, Israel 21st March 2012

Same bird as image above.

Note the apparent tongue extensions eating into the black of the inner webs from this angle on the left wing, also strong suggesting Caspian/Steppe Gull.

The right wing has a similar pattern as on the left wing as featured in the previous image however the P4 band differs in shape with a peak towards the feather shaft.
Steppe Gull: adult Ashdod Rubbish Tip, Israel 21st March 2012

This pale eyed bird shows a large white mirror to P10 and a small rounded mirror on the inner web of P9.

Distinctly this bird shows pale tongues, grey inner webs, to P8-P6 so creating a Caspian Gull type appearance. The lack of pale tongues to P10 and P9 is not a feature that would rule out Steppe Gull. In Olson and Larrson on pages 26 and 27 wing tip pattern 9 is similar to this though lacking a mark to P3, dark streaking to the primary coverts and a small white mirror to P9.

This wing tip pattern would exclude Yellow-legged Gull, Larus michahellis, as that species does not show such extensive pale grey tongues.

P5 shows a large black band which extends up along the outer web by about a third of the length and there is a black mark on the outer web of P4, michahellis would show a more uniform black wedge on the wing tip.

Also note the underside of the left wing shows well the pale tongues.

The white trailing edge is broad along secondaries but narrows rapidly along the primaries.