Re: Vagrant Gull = Eastern Siberian Gull

To: Mike Carter <>, Robert Inglis <>, Birding-Aus <>
Subject: Re: Vagrant Gull = Eastern Siberian Gull
From: Nikolas Haass <>
Date: Mon, 18 Feb 2008 13:29:52 -0800 (PST)
Unfortunately the so-called Herring Gull complex is not just a simple matter of 
"splitting" as indicated by Mike's comment and it is not a "ringspecies" (as in 
the late Ernst Mayr's hypothesis). There are species (yes species) involved 
which are not at all closely related to Eurasian Herring Gull (e.g. American 
Herring Gull). There are several interesting papers: Pons et al. 2005 (with 
Pierre-Andre Crochet) and Liebers et al. 2004 (see below; with Peter de Knijff 
and the late Andreas Helbig)
This might be of interest for birders interested in gulls:

Nikolas Haass

Sydney, NSW

----- Original Message ----
From: Mike Carter <>
To: Robert Inglis <>; Birding-Aus <>
Cc: Rohan Clarke <>; Danny Rogers 
<>; Tony Palliser <>
Sent: Monday, February 18, 2008 11:36:32 PM
Subject: Re: Vagrant Gull = Eastern Siberian Gull

Bob Inglis asked
> Could someone please tell me which species (or sub-species) is being 
> considered as the likely identity of the 'unusual' gull presently being 
> stalked at Cooktown?

Nikolas Haass tried to answer your question Bob but not very simply, 
confusing all of us even more by introducing Baraba Gull into the debate, 
another one you and I have never heard of. You may though have heard of 
Steppe Gull another name for it. Mind you, until this gull appeared in 
Cooktown, I hadn't!
The problem is Bob, there are some seriously misguided souls around (one I 
know has the initials TT and is a Queenslander like you) that laud and 
admire splitters, when you and I know they should be condemned! Pathetic 
isn't it? Being a birder is hard enough without their activities adding to 
our problems.
    My wife and I have just arrived home from braving the floods (we drove 
through water rushing across one bridge), and like numerous others I 
photographed the gull from all angles. Consequently I'm too eager for bed to 
deal thoroughly with this now but I am keen to know what to call this new 
tick. So briefly, this is how I see it.
    To date, it has been BARC's policy to use Sibley and Monroe as the 
Checklist for species new to Australia. Don't have that handy but if we were 
to use the slightly more modern Monroe & Sibley's (1993), A World Checklist, 
then the bird is simply the good old Herring Gull, Larus argentatus, albeit 
the sub-species 'vegae' called Vega Gull. It doesn't look anything like the 
European version though. If we follow or adopt a more modern checklist, such 
as Clements 6th edition (2007), then the bird is split off as the Eastern 
Siberian Gull, Larus vegae, which has two subspecies, this being probably 
the race mongolicus. The misguided among us consider this taxa a full 
species and call it a Mongolian Gull. The photo of a first winter bird of 
this taxa in Shimba's (2007) Photographic Guide to the Birds of Japan is a 
dead ringer for the Cooktown individual. There is just one problem; the tail 
pattern seems to better fit the nominate vegae! Both winter in SE China.
    And yes Laurie, BARC frequently consults overseas experts.

Mike Carter
30 Canadian Bay Road
Mount Eliza  VIC 3930
Tel  (03) 9787 7136


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