Little Gull

Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus is the world’s smallest gull, rarely recorded in China. Breeding records from Argun River in Inner Mongolia and in Altai District, northern Xinjiang. Recorded on passage in Xinjiang, Sichuan, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Liaoning, and Hebei. HABITAT Breeds in freshwater habitats; winters mainly at sea. ID & COMPARISON Smaller and more compact than Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus, with which it may associate. Breeding adult is black-hooded but lacks white eye crescent of other hooded gulls; has distinctive dark-grey undersurface of wings. Non-breeding adult has white head with dark cap and blackish ear spot. First-winter has blackish M pattern on upper wings and black terminal band on slightly forked tail. First-winter Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla and Ross’s Gull Rhodostethia rosea (both rare in China) share M pattern on upper wings. Black-legged Kittiwake is much larger; Ross’s Gull is slightly larger and has a more elongated appearance and a wedge-shaped tail that is tipped black (no bar). Breeding Ross’s Gull has white head and black necklace and is pink below; non-breeding adult Ross’s has black eye patch and retains pink tinge to underparts. BARE PARTS Bill short, black; feet red in adults, pink in juveniles and first-winter birds. VOICE Occasional nasal keck call, heard more often at colonies. — Craig Brelsford


Daniel Bengtsson served as chief ornithological consultant for Craig Brelsford’s Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of China, from which this species description is drawn.

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