I’m rather ignorant about gulls but, when I saw this particular gull in a flock of about 20 others in Cardiff Bay a few days ago, I realised it looked different though I wasn’t able to identify the bird until I got home and had a good look at my photos. Even then I wasn’t entirely certain so posted some photos on the South Wales Birding group page on Facebook to get some expert opinions. And it turns out my deduction was right – this is a Mediterranean gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus).
How did I recognise it from the usual Black-headed gulls (BHGs)? Well, in this bird the black feathers cover the whole head, rather than just the front half, and they are very black, not dark brown like the BHGs – the word melanocephalus means black-headed. Also, as one of my Facebook friends pointed out, you should always keep a look out for gulls that have white primaries, the long outermost feathers towards the top of a bird’s wing. Here are some flight photos that show how pale this bird’s wings were (and apologies for the poor images – it’s not easy to capture a flying bird and these are also heavily cropped).