basic information

Relict Gull

Larus relictus (Lonnberg, 1931)

Реликтовая чайка | Мойнақ немесе алакөз

Alakol Lake, Akshi
© Sveta Ashby


The adult Relict Gulls (older than three years) in spring and summer plumage have light-grey back and wing-coverts. Neck, tail, uppertail and all underparts are white. Head is black pale-coffee tinged near bill; this tinge darkens on forehead, cheeks and throat, and fluently passes to all black color of crown, nape, ears coverts and bottom-throat. Above and under eye there are two broad (6-7 mm) bright white strips which join behind the eye and form the white part-ring very well contrasting on black background. Primaries are white with black pattern. On individuals with minimum of this pattern the black color presents only on first three primaries and as broad terminal bands on 2-5 PM. Some individuals (probably more young) have black on the inner web of 1-2 PM. Bill is dark-red. Legs are meat-red, claws are black. Eyes are dark-brown, eyelids are bright-red. Juveniles in first plumage have white neck feathers with broad brownish terminal bands; feathers of back and upper wing-coverts are grayish with broad brownish terminal marges and broad whitish tips. Forehead, cheeks and throat are white; crown and nape are with not clear dark pattern. Uppertail, flanks and underparts are white. Tail is white with broad dark terminal band. First and second primaries are all black; other ones with fluently enlarging white spots on inner webs; all primaries with white drop-shaped tips which frays faster than black parts of feather. Bill is dark-brown, some paler on base of low mandible, legs are dark-grey. Eyes are dark-brown, eyelids are black. After first autumn molting the head and nape are white with rare dark-brownish drop-shaped little spots. Back and wing-covets are similar on adults' ones but lesser coverts with broad brownish tips. Tail is with dark terminal band. Legs are pale-grey, bill is light on base and dark on tip. Sizes. Males: wing 338 – 352, tail 134 – 150, bill 35 – 35 mm. Females: wing 322 -345, tail 126 – 143, bill 33 – 35 mm. Weight: 420 – 575 grams.


The Relict Gull breeds on islands of Alakol lake, in eastern part of Balkhash lake and in lakes of Trans-Irtysh area. On migration observed on Dzhalanashkol lake, Dzhungarian Gates passage-way. Ringed on Alakol lake birds were recorded - one in Northern Vietnam, three in China and two unusual - one ring was sent from Bulgaria (March 25 1978), second one from Turkey (March 30 1990). Last records point to the possibility of this species wintering on Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea.


The Relict Gull is rare breeding migrant. It inhabits large salt lakes with small islands, both stable and temporal. It arrives in end March - April in small groups. Breeding in dense colonies, sometimes more than one thousand pairs, together with Great Black-headed Gulls, Gull-billed and Caspian Terns often. Nest is built on sandy or with scarce vegetation islands in small distance each of other. Nest is shallow hole lined with dry grass, which is added during incubation. Clutches of 1-4 eggs founded in May. Eggs are light olive-clay with brown-black or deep-olive and deep light-grey spots. Both parents incubate (female at night and early morning, male in the afternoon) for 24-26 days and feed juveniles, which hatch at June and begin to fly at age 40-45 days old, in July. Autumn migration begins in early August, most birds leave breeding area in September. In end of September one ringed bird was recorded in Viet Nam, on wintering places.


"Птицы Казахстана" том 5. "Наука". Алма-Ата, 1974.
Э.И.Гаврилов. "Фауна и распространение птиц Казахстана". Алматы, 1999.
Gavrilov E. I., Gavrilov A. E. "The Birds of Kazakhstan". Almaty, 2005.


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