Larus armenicus

(last update: 7-9-2010)

Amir Ben Dov (Israel)
Mars Muusse (Netherlands)


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Phenotypic characterization, taxonomic rank and phylogenetic relationships of Armenian Gull Larus armenicus

Dorit Liebers & Andreas J. Helbig

published: Limicola 13-6, 1999 (in German, with English summary)

Material and methods

Between 22 May and 06 June 1999, the authors visited three breeding populations for armenicus in Turkey:
Tuz Golu (central Turkey) holds two colonies in the northern part of the lake
Beysehir Golu (SW Turkey) holds a small colony
Van Golu (eastern Anatolia) has colonies on the islands Ahtamar and Carpanak, in the centre of the breeding area of armenicus.

The islands were visited and birds were observed with 30x telescopes. Depending on the size of the breeding colony, breeding birds reacted different, and not all characteristics (e.g. presence and size of bill-markings, colour of legs and iris, wing-tip pattern) could be scored simultaneous at individual birds. Especially birds breeding in Tuz Golu and Beysehir Golu didn’t allow close views and not all features were scored in detail. Carpanak is a much larger island, where birds allowed close distance observations. To score wing-tip patterns, the alarming, circling birds were photographed with 500mm telelens.

Ninety-seven blood samples were taken from chicks to determine population-genetic relationships: 51 from Tuz Golu (including 10 adults), 16 from Beysehir and 30 from Van Golu. Only one chick per nest was sampled. These blood samples were compared to four other large white-headed taxa:
Michahellis from the eastern Mediterranean (Malta, Crete, n = 24) and the Rumanian Black Sea coast (Constance, n = 6)
Cachinnans from the Black Sea (n = 39) and from the northern Caspian Sea (n = 43)
Barabensis from Lake Tengiz in Kasachstan (n = 32)
Taymirensis from the Taymir Peninsular in Russia (n = 21).

Ten adult birds were caught at Tuz Golu and scored on a Kodak Q-14 Grey Scale for upperpart grey tone and scored on morphometric measurements. Comparisons were made with michahellis from the Ligurian Sea, Italy, and with cachinnans from the Asow Sea, Ukrain. The blood and tissue samples allowed sexing birds and comparison between armenicus, cachinnans and barabensis. Where no such samples were available, sexing was done on morphometric measurements, and this gave some room to uncertainty.

Sound recordings were made in all colonies, using Sony portable MiniDisk (MZ-R3) with Sennheiser System K6 and microphone module ME-67. Sonogrammes were created using Avisoft 3.4d. Analyses were only made for the “long calls” (as in Goethe 1982), which is the dominant call in breeding places. Sound samples from Tuz Golu and Van Golu were compared to michahellis from Spain, the Camarque and breeding birds from the upper Rhine. There is no certainty if all analyzed calls apply to different birds, as recordings were made in large colonies. Sample sizes are 80 armenicus (Tuz Golu 44, Van Golu 36); 61 michahellis (Spain, Camarque, upper Rhine).

below: Adult Armenian Gulls Larus armenicus June 1999, Carpanak Island, Van Golu, Turkey. Picture: Andreas J. Helbig.

Note relatively dark grey mantle, the lack of white tips to the primaries (almost completely worn off), variable extent of black bill markings and pale yellow leg colour (one third of the birds had more saturated yelloow legs).