The Gulls of Crete in May

May is breeding season. Larus michahellis (Yellow-legged Gull) is common everywhere on Crete. Costs, damps, reservoirs, olive plantations, even in plateaus at high mountains! In some areas breeding colonies are close to humans, for example the Elafonissi area but most colonies are in remote islets. The population is still uknown, at least 4000 pairs and certainly increasing.

Larus audounii (Audouin's Gull) is a local breeder on some islets in NE Crete that are generally difficult to access and that is good for them! But some breed close to turistic areas (e.g. Elounda). It is endagered in Greece and the Cretan population is very small, only few tens of pairs. May is the best month to see them on Crete.

All other species of Gulls are rare this season on Crete and only Larus fuscus fuscus (Baltic Gull) is regular as migrant, but in very low numbers, mainly in early May. In harbours may stay some immatures Caspian, Black-headed and Meditteranean or rarely other species.

18/01/2007: A Gulling Day with Christos Vlachos

On January 18, 2007 Christos arrived early morning to Crete to take some photos of Armenian Gulls in Irakleion harbour. Armenian were not in his gallery as it is a rarity in mainland Greece. Such a good luck! At least 3 adult Armenians where there! But also many other large gulls! We both have the oppurtunity to watch, and Christos to take pictures of every single gull of few hundrends resting in the east part of the port. Some of them are really interesting as the following pictures shown. ID problems still remain for some individuals and a probable "first" for Crete and Greece gull species (or subspecies), the Steppe Gull is including in Christos excellent photos!

Larus cachinnans, Photo by Christos Vlachos

Together Caspian Gull - Larus cachinnans in front and Yellow-legged - Larus michahellis beside. See legs length and colour, bills shape, eyes, wing tips and mantles colour.

Mystery Gull, Photos by Christos Vlachos

A mystery gull with "hood" recalling "Atlantic Gull".
Larger and lighter than Armenians but bill like those.
Comments are welcome!

Larus armenicus, Photo by Christos Vlachos

An Armenian Gull with few head markings

Larus armenicus, Photo by Christos Vlachos

There are no head markings in this Armenian

A possible Steppe Gull. Photo by Christos Vlachos

Steppe Gull [Larus (cachinnans-heuglini-fuscus) barabensis] was my opinion from the first view. Me and Christos were watced that bird for long, it was a small gull of the large white headed group, smaller than Caspians, Yellow-legged and Heuglin's of the group occured on 18 January 2007 on Irakleion harbour. It had the same mantle colour as the three adult Armenians we watched there but longer bill and not a very dark eye. Legs yellow not as bright as michahellis, not very long. I am not sure if it was a full adult individual.
Possibility of being an abberant small female Yellow-legged limited because of its darker mantle and, if it was an adult, the wing formula.
Possibility of being Armenian also limited due to long bill and shape.
Possibility of being a Heuglin's Gull limited due to lighter mantle and to the small size.

If accepted will be the first Steppe Gull in Greece! Photos with better quality are available if somebody want to see.

Larus (f) heuglini, Photo by Christos Vlachos

This Gull with almost orange legs was difficult to ID. Finnaly my opinion is "heuglini" as some experts told.

Larus (f) heuglini, Photo by Christos Vlachos

Larus fuscus. Photo by Christos Vlachos

An individual with moulted wing. Most probably a Larus f. fuscus due to its size and moutling season, although mantle colouration not as dark as in typical Baltic.

A Baltic Gull with a metal ring from Finland, photos by Christos Vlachos

At least 3 Larus fuscus fuscus ringed as pullus in Finland recovered in Irakleio!
This one was firstly seen to harbour October 13, 2006 and left in mid March 2007.
Ringed as pullus by Risto Juvaste on July 1995!

Larus sp, Photo by Christos Vlachos

Larus sp, Photo by Christos Vlachos

Larus sp, Photo by Christos Vlachos

Larus (f) heuglini, Photo by Christos Vlachos

Larus sp, Photo by Christos Vlachos

Larus (f) heuglini, Photo by Christos Vlachos

Larus fuscus, Photo by Christos Vlachos

A mystery gull, Irakleion harbour, April 4, 2007

This one was much larger than typical "melanocephalus" (Mediterranean) but "small" for "ichthyaetus" (Pallas's). Three pictures (2 of them with zoom in another view) are showed.
This individual came from the east, didn't stay long, did not share the company of the conspesific group, that were feeding and rested just few hundred meters away, but left back to the east soon. Why such a behaviour? Is any possibility of being something else of "melanocephalus"? Is Relict Gull (Larus relictus) a possibility? Colors of bill and legs unlikely to Palla's Gull. Another possibility, a hybrid of melanocephalus x genei has been suspected.
Now, updated this in September 2008, I think of the possibility of an hybrid melanocephalus x ichthyaetus. They are now considered to be close relatives in the same new genus Ichthyaetus.

zoom on air:

The same bird landing:

with a michahellis to compare sizes:

on ground, showing long bill and legs: