Yellow-legged Gull
Larus michahellis

> GENERAL >>>>>

Please note: esp. immature large gulls are notoriously difficult to ID due to very variable plumage features and frequent hybridisation with other Larus sp.

– large gull, about the size of European Herring Gull
– probably mainly diurnal migrant
– migrates singly or in small flocks in formation
– long-range dispersal of juveniles

>> VISUAL ID >>>>>


Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, 1CY/JUV
BIF3459, 28/08/2015, Mallorca, Spain, Martin Grimm
– overall contrasting plumage pattern
– inner primaries only slightly brightened, no explicit bright triangle
– tail with broad black terminal band
– sparsely marked bright uppertail coverts
– pale head with dark ‘mask’
– blunt dull black bill


Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, 1CY/1W
BIF3460, 07/11/2009, North Sea, Mathias Putze
– contrasting plumage pattern, reminiscent of same-aged Great Black-backed Gull
– inner primaries only slightly brightened, no explicit bright triangle (subterminal brightenings inner web of P5-1 within range )
– even chequerboard pattern on inner secondary coverts
– dark markings on nape, neck and flanks, ventral plumage


Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, 1CY/1W
BIF3461, 07/11/2009, North Sea, Mathias Putze
– inner primaries only slightly brightened, no explicit bright triangle (subterminal brightenings inner web of P5-1 within range )
– dark, strongly marked underwing
– dark markings on nape, neck and flanks, ventral plumage
– under tail coverts clean white


Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, 1CY/1W (left)
Caspian Gull Larus cachinans, 2CY/2W (right)
BIF3411, 07/10/2012, Saxony, Germany, Mathias Putze
– 1CY (left)
– highly-contrasting mantle pattern, resembles Great Black-backed Gull of the same age
– inner primary window only slightly lightened
– contrasting black and white tail
– diffuse dark markings on nape, neck and flanks, ventral plumage clean white
– pale head with only a hint of a ‘mask’


Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, 1CY/1W (left)
Caspian Gull Larus cachinans, 2CY/2W (right)
Pallas’s Gull Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus, 1CY/1W
BIF3471, 07/10/2012, Saxony, Germany, Mathias Putze
– quite solidly dark underwing coverts
– light head with dark ‘mask’
– pale breast and belly
– unmarked, clean white undertail coverts


Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, 2CY
BIF3491, 05/05/2021, Ammernsee, Germany, Mathias Putze
– quite solidly dark underwing coverts
– light head, contrasting dark eye-mask
– white rump and tail-base, dark terminal tail banf


Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, 3CY/2S
BIF3464, 19/09/2018, Croatia, Martin Grimm
– most of the greater and primary coverts and carpal area still brown
– P10/9 still growing, light subterminal spot on P10
– inner primaries bright grey, adult like
– P10-4 with first small white terminal spots, note some brown colouration in primaries
– brightened, blunt bill with some red on gonys, much black markings and subterminal band


Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, 3CY/3W
BIF3462, 19/12/2020, Rastatt, Germany, Mathias Putze
– tail and remiges 3rd generation
– primaries very dark, inner secondaries lightened, grey, adult like
– P6-4 with first white terminal spots
– note: no bright subterminal spot on P10
– tail white, with only rudimentary black markings left
– relatively steep forehead
– massive, pale yellow, parallel-edged, blunt bill with first red on the gonys and black subterminal band


Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, 3CY/3W
BIF3463, 19/12/2020, Rastatt, Germany, Mathias Putze
– underwing primary coverts surprisingly strongly marked
– body plumage and head predominantly white
– discreet head markings around the eye (already rather pale iris)
– brown-red orbital ring


Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, 3CY/3W
BIF3470, 19/12/2020, Rastatt, Germany, Mathias Putze
– largely white body but still well marked underwing coverts
– head with some markings around the eye


Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, 4CY/3W
BIF3505, 07/02/2021, Ammersee, Germany, Mathias Putze


Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, 4CY/3W
BIF3505, 07/02/2021, Ammersee, Germany, Mathias Putze


Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, 5CY/4W
BIF3505, 07/02/2021, Ammersee, Germany, Mathias Putze


Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, 5CY/4W
BIF3505, 07/02/2021, Ammersee, Germany, Mathias Putze


Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, AD BREED
BIF3465, 26/04/2014, Saxony, Germany, Mathias Putze
– classic bird
– much black in the hand
– broad, continuous black subterminal band on P5, narrow on P10 (-> L. cachinnans AD with completely white tip)
– small white terminal spots on primaries, relatively small white mirror on P9 (-> L. cachinnans)
– bright (orange)-yellow bare-parts
– warm yellow iris (‘gentle look’ (-> argentatus), bright red orbital ring


Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, AD BREED
BIF3466, 15/06/2007, Spain, Martin Grimm
– massive, parallel-edged, blunt bill, massive gonys, red in gonys area extends to upper bill
– bright iris, bright red orbital ring
– red gape


Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, AD BREED
BIF3467, 15/06/2007, Spain, Martin Grimm
– relatively long-winged appearance
– small white terminal spots on primaries, no mirror on P9 (->L. cachinnans)


Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, AD BREED
BIF3468, 01/03/2007, Spain, Martin Grimm
– appears like an European Herring Gull judging from this single photo
– little black in hand (P10-6)
– completely white tip on P10, no black band (not even a comma) on P5
– very long grey areas on primary’s inner web
– appears small-headed with pale iris, piercing ‘cat-eye’
– orbital ring and gape difficult to judge, but rather yellowish-orange
– weak, pale coloured gonys
– leg colour not to judge


Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, AD BREED
BIF3469, 26/04/2014, Saxony, Germany, Mathias Putze
– classic bird
– mantle slighlty darker than average Herring Gull
– relatively long-winged appearance, much black in the hand
– broad, continuous black subterminal band on P5 stands out
– underwing: grey areas on inner webs of the primaries short – ending U-shaped (diffuse in Caspian Gull – right-angled in European Herring Gull)


Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis, AD BREED
BIF3492, 30/03/2021, Mittenbach, Germany, Mathias Putze
– small mirror on P10
– little black in hand (P10-6)

>> ACOUSTIC ID >>>>>

– no particular flight calls
– sometimes some chatting especially during nocturnal flights or near man-made structures

>> COMPARISON SPECIES >>>>>

Pallas’s Gull
Common Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Cape Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Baltic Gull
Heuglin’s Gull
Steppe Gull
European Herring Gull
Armenian Gull
Caspian Gull
Vega Gull
American Herring Gull
Thayer’s Gull
Iceland Gull
Slaty-backed Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Glaucous Gull
Great Black-backed Gull

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