Re:black-headed gull

To: <>
Subject: Re:black-headed gull
From: "Phil Winn" <>
Date: Wed, 18 Oct 2006 12:15:18 +1000

On the ‘gull with a black head’ front, my partner Julie and I were visiting the central Torres Strait over December, Warraber (Sue) Island in particular.  Towards the end of our stay, we saw a gull with a fully black head, flying with other, normal gulls, low (not much over head height) and close (a few metres) over the beach.

It went by rather quickly, but we both noted an all-black head (right down the nape) and a red beak. From field guides, I suspected a Laughing Gull – but we could not confirm features like the eyebrows or leg colour (it went by all too quickly, and we are not seabird or tropical specialists – indeed, we expected to find a regular Australian visitor in our field guide that we simply hadn’t really noted – we were seeing a lot of ‘lifers’ during that particular trip to FNQ).

Talking later with local Islanders, it was clear that this gull had been around the island for a few months at least – many had noticed it, and noted that it could often be found in the islands freshwater dam (the dam has an evaporation cover, but this collects water after rain). The island dump is nearby, so gulls can often be found in the area, enjoying the best of both worlds (water & food). We were leaving in a couple of days, and were quite busy, but I went up to the dam on the last two mornings on Warraber to no avail.

When I mentioned its possible name to locals they were rather animated, because they had noticed that its call resembled laughter, and thought this an entirely apt name.

Without an absolutely positive ID or a photo, I didn’t report it. Perhaps I should have.






Dr Phillip Winn

Postgraduate Coursework Convenor

School of Archaeology and Anthropology

Faculty of Arts

Australian National University


Rm. G10 A.D. Hope

ph. 6125 3610



From: Shaun Bagley [
Sent: Tuesday, 17 October 2006 10:51 PM
To: Mark Clayton; 'Tobias Hayashi';
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Re:black-headed gull


While I think that there is a very good chance that the second bird is a Herring (or Vega) gull, the light in this photo makes me wonder if this is not a Slaty-backed Gull which is more abundant in winter in coastal Japan. Then again, if the primaries truly are paler (and not a light trick) then there's an outside chance it's a Glaucous-winged Gull where the primaries are truly grey rather than black as in the two prior species. The Glaucous-winged is a northern Japan visitor during winter so not outside possibility that would be around Tokyo. All have similar streaking and spots on bill so would take someone who is very familiar with all 3 to distinguish in my opinion.





----- Original Message -----


Sent: Tuesday, October 17, 2006 5:17 PM

Subject: RE: [canberrabirds] Re:black-headed gull


Hi Tobias,


Your second species of gull with its pink legs and yellow bill with a red spot on the lower mandible looks like a Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) but is probably what is now called the Vega Gull (L.vegae). What looks like streaking on the neck of your photographed bird separate this “new” species from the “old” Herring Gull. Recent taxonomic studies on the larger gull species has led to a lot of splitting and creation of new species. I don’t know if there has been a recent field guide to the birds of Japan, but if there is, maybe you could check that out. Having said all this someone out there may prove me wrong.


As for the breeding plumage of the Black-headed Gull, the top of the head, from the dark patch shown in your photograph, down to the mid throat area becomes completely blackish. It has been recorded on probably less than 10 times, mostly in the NT and WA.






From: Tobias Hayashi [
Sent: Tuesday, 17 October 2006 4:21 PM
Subject: [canberrabirds] Re:black-headed gull




This is indeed a photo of a Black-headed Gull, although I have no idea as to how eclipse plumages affect the colouration of the bird. However, I do know that the photograph was taken near Tokyo in January. Any thoughts about the next photo...I'm not sure of the identity of the bird. Similar place and time.



P.S. Closer to home, would someone enlighten me as to the differences between a Skylark and  a Pipit?


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