It is the one on the left and it is called an Audouin’s Gull, scientific name Larus audouinii and Portuguese name Gaivota de Audouin. If you are thinking that the names are all very similar, then you would be right. The gull is named after Jean Victor Audouin, a French naturalist.
Apparently they can be seen regularly in the eastern Algarve but after three years of birding in the eastern Algarve our sighting the other week was a first for us. It is scarce in the rest of Portugal, but numbers are on the increase. In the 1960s there were less than 1000 breeding pairs worldwide, numbers now are estimated at around 44,000 in Europe. I would never have spotted it without MrB standing next to me. I had noticed it was a different size to the other gulls nearby but as I’m not a true birder that didn’t ring any bells for me. MrB though immediately went into birding mode and was soon pointing out to me the other variations – the longer neck, the slight downward turn and deep red of the beak and most critical of all the colour (grey-green) of the legs.
Unlike other large gulls the Audouin’s Gull rarely scavenge, perhaps a reflection of its more elegant appearance! They feed, almost exclusively, on fish usually snatched from near the surface or in deeper plunge dives. One exception they do make for scavenging is fish discarded from fishing trawlers, and this learnt behaviour is one of the reasons for the dramatic increase in numbers over the past 50 years. Ours didn’t do anything as exciting as fish or even fly, but he did pose long enough for me to capture some identification shots and has enabled me to share with Cate and my 6WS friends that I have seen one of the World’s rarest gulls. Now the test of course for the week ahead is whether I will identify it if we see one again.