KEY SPECIES

Bird Watching (UK) - - Bird The World -

SLEN­DER-BILLED GULL This el­e­gant gull is rarely recorded in the Bri­tish Isles. In fact, the last ac­cepted record was in May 2014 at Titch­well, Nor­folk. Many peo­ple think of this species as a Mediterranean bird but, in re­al­ity, it has a rather dis­junct dis­tri­bu­tion cov­er­ing coastal West Africa, the Mediterranean and Black Seas east­ward into Cen­tral Asia and north-western In­dia. Most of the pop­u­la­tion is mi­gra­tory, win­ter­ing in Africa and In­dia. Slen­der-billed Gulls share a lot of sim­i­lar­i­ties with the far more fa­mil­iar Black-headed Gull. They both have white forewings, which is unique among Euro­pean gulls but is also dis­played by the rare transat­lantic Bon­a­parte’s Gull. In­deed, the Slen­der-billed Gull looks su­per­fi­cially like a large Black-headed Gull in most of its plumages. The strik­ing dif­fer­ences are its sloped fore­head and long dark bill plus its habit of lean­ing its el­e­gant, long neck for­ward while swim­ming. This lat­ter fea­ture is so ob­vi­ous when you watch them that they should re­ally have been chris­tened Swan-necked Gulls! Dur­ing the sum­mer they sport a clean white head and an ut­terly de­light­ful pink­ish hue on their un­der­parts. When seen in pairs the males are big­ger than the fe­males, as fa­mously il­lus­trated when a court­ing cou­ple turned up at Cley, Nor­folk in 1987.

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