A little bit of the Mediterranean and Linnaeus having a laugh

There’s a Mediterranean Gull in amongst the Black-Headed Gulls here at RSPB Lodmoor. And just like Black-Headed Gulls not having black heads, Mediterranean Gulls don’t just live in the Mediterranean.

Mediterranean Gull - The Hall of Einar - photograph (c) David Bailey (not the)

This one is having a wash and brush-up. (Do click to enlarge if you’d like to see all the fabulous detail. I don’t post these images in large sizes and high resolution so you only look at them when they’re small).

They have beautiful red eye-rings and white wing-tips which make them quite distinctive. I’m starting to feel more confident that I could recognise one the next time I see it. Here’s my earlier encounter with one:

The scientific name of the Mediterranean Gull is Larus melanocephalus, which means Black-Headed Gull, which is supremely unhelpful. Here’s what an actual Black-Headed Gull, with its chocolate-coloured head, looks like:

The scientific name of the Black-Headed Gull is Chroicocephalus ridibundus, which means Laughing Coloured-Head. Not to be confused with the Laughing Gull, however:

And the Laughing Gull’s scientific name? Leucophaeus atricilla. That means Dusky-White Black-Tail, which is very odd, because it has a white tail.

It’s likely that Linnaeus spelled its name wrongly, when he first described the species, and wrote atricilla (black-tail) instead of atricapilla (black-haired). Laughing Gulls have black heads in the breeding season, but never have black tails.

Do you think Linnaeus was having a laugh?

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