Overview

Distribution

Range Description

Larus michahellis can be found in Europe, the Middle East and north Africa. It is resident in much of southern Europe, on the coasts of the Mediterranean, Black Sea and Caspian Sea, on the Azores and Madeira, Portugal, and on the Canary Islands. Spain. Wintering grounds include the coast of south-west Asia (breeders from the steppes), most of the European coast up to Denmark and the coast of Africa from Western Sahara through tho the eastern Mediterranean (del Hoyo et al. 1996).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Behaviour Populations may be dispersive or sedentary (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Post-breeding movements to wintering areas occur from July to November, with the return migration occurring from mid-February to mid-June (Olsen and Larsson 2003). The species breeds from mid-March to April (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998), although the exact timing varies geographically (Olsen and Larsson 2003). It breeds colonially in groups of up to 8,000 pairs, and may nest in monospecific clusters within mixed-species colonies (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Outside of the breeding season the species remains gregarious, congregating around ports, harbours and refuse dumps (le Grand et al. 1984). Habitat Breeding During the breeding season the species nests near lakes surrounded by reedbeds (Olsen and Larsson 2003), pastures (Madeira) (le Grand et al. 1984), reservoirs, rivers (de Juana 1984), and on grassy or shrubby river islands (del Hoyo et al. 1996), also forming colonies on sea cliffs (de Juana 1984), rocky and sandy offshore islands, rocky coasts (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998), sandy beaches, spits (del Hoyo et al. 1996), sand-dunes, and salt-pans (Snow and Perrins 1998), and foraging in intertidal zones (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and in brackish coastal marshes (Snow and Perrins 1998). Non-breeding Outside of the breeding season the species is more common along the coast (e.g. at harbours and ports) and in other marine habitats (though seldom far from land). During this season it also forages in cultivated fields (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998, Olsen and Larsson 2003) and along rivers, and is especially common at refuse dumps (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998). Diet Its diet consists of fish, invertebrates (including insects, molluscs (Olsen and Larsson 2003) and crabs (Munilla 1997)), reptiles, small mammals (e.g. voles (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and ground squirrels (Snow and Perrins 1998)), refuse, offal, and bird eggs and chicks (del Hoyo et al. 1996) (e.g. of petrels and shearwaters) (le Grand et al. 1984). Breeding site The nest is constructed of nearby vegetation, feathers, debris and old carcasses, and is preferably positioned close to or under bushes (del Hoyo et al. 1996), or on rocky and sandy islands, beaches, spits, sea cliffs, grassy or shrubby river islands (del Hoyo et al. 1996), and occasionally on high ground hundreds of metres from water (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species breeds colonially in monospecific or mixed-species groups, with pairs usually nesting a few metres apart (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
  • Marine
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Larus michahellis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2014

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

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Population

Population
The global population size is unknown owing to recent taxonomic splits.


Population Trend
Increasing
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Threats

Major Threats
This species is vulnerable to oil pollution (James 1984, del Hoyo et al. 1996), and is killed by longlines (fishing lines) in the Mediterranean Sea and Macaronesia (Cooper 2003). It suffers from habitat destruction and disturbance from tourism at breeding sites in the Spanish Mediterranean (le Grand et al. 1984, de Juana 1984), and many colonies are regularly robbed of eggs by local communities (James 1984, de Juana 1984, del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species was also persecuted in the past (adults were shot and nests destroyed) due to its predation on Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus (del Hoyo et al. 1996), culled in the Spanish Mediterranean (to protect Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii) (James 1984, del Hoyo et al. 1996), and controlled by poisoning due to its predation on White-faced Storm-petrel Pelagodroma marina (le Grand et al. 1984). Culling of the species still occurs in the Mediterranean region, resulting in decreases in breeding colony size (mainly due to emigration rather than actual population decrease) (Bosch et al. 2000). Utilisation The species is hunted for sport in Ukraine (Rudenko 2006).
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Wikipedia

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.

In flight over the Gulf of Olbia

Classification[edit]

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) is also sometimes known as the Atlantic gull and is potentially a full species in its own right.[6] 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[edit]

Mating on roof-top, Constanta, Romania

The breeding range is centred on 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.[7]

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.[8] It is reported as a vagrant to northeastern North America[9] and Nigeria.[citation needed]

Description[edit]

Nominate L. m. michahellis, Elba
Juvenile with open beak

The yellow-legged gull is a large gull, though the size does vary, with the smallest females being scarcely larger than a common gull and the largest males being roughly the size of a great black-backed gull. They range in length from 52 to 68 cm (20 to 27 in) in total length, from 120 to 155 cm (47 to 61 in) in wingspan and from 550 to 1,600 g (1.21 to 3.53 lb) in weight.[10] Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 40.8 to 47.2 cm (16.1 to 18.6 in), the bill is 4.6 to 6 cm (1.8 to 2.4 in) and the tarsus is 5.6 to 7.5 cm (2.2 to 3.0 in).[10] Adults are externally 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[edit]

Yellow-legged gull eating a pigeon. Barcelona.

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[edit]

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[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2013). "Larus michahellis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Sharrock, J. T. R. (1993). Editorial. British Birds 86 (1): 1–2.
  3. ^ Sangster, George; Collinson, J. Martin; Knox, Alan G.; Parkin, David T.; Svensson, Lars (2007). "Taxonomic recommendations for British birds: Fourth report". Ibis 149 (4): 853. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.2007.00758.x. 
  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 (3): 686–99. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2005.05.011. PMID 16054399. 
  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. ^ Callahan, David. "Seabird splits". birdwatch.co.uk. Birdwatch Magazine. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  7. ^ Holling, M. (2009). Rare breeding birds in the United Kingdom in 2006. British Birds 102: 188.
  8. ^ D. W. Snow & C. M. Perrins (1998). The Birds of the Western Palearctic, Concise Edition (Vol. 1), Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  9. ^ National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America ISBN 0-7922-6877-6
  10. ^ a b Klaus Malling Olsen & Hans Larsson Gulls: Of North America, Europe, and Asia. Princeton University Press (2004). ISBN 978-0691119977.

References[edit]

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