Bird Fact Friday — Pallas’s Gull

Adapted from pages 46-48 of Gulls of the World:

Pallas’s Gull is a four-year gull, but with initial rapid plumage development as in three-year gulls. The largest hooded gull by far, Pallas’s Gull is almost as large as Great Black-backed Gull, and dwarfs almost any other gull in its company. Its pear-shaped head has flat crown that peaks well behind dark eyes. These gulls have a long, heavy bill, while its head looks small relative to heavy, barrel-shaped body. In settled birds, the breast appears full, but their rear is attenuated with wings extending moderately beyond tail-tip. Loosely folded tertials create a prominent hump. Meanwhile, their legs are long and thin, with long visible tibia. 

With regards to their in flight profile, it is front-heavy with triangular head, protruding breast and slender wings, like an oversized Caspian Gull. They fly ponderously and slowly with heron-like wing-beats, gliding on angled wings with little flexing at carpal joint. The birds are known for often lowering their bill in flight. They frequently catch fish by hovering and diving. Swimming birds sit higher on water than other large gulls.

A gull.

A Pallas Gull in Uttar Pradesh, India.

These gulls are not very vocal. Calls deep and short, on breeding sites a deep há-u. Flocks utter a goose-like ga-gaga. They also make a low, slightly nasal oow, similar to the calls of the Common Raven Corvus corax. Finally, their alarm call a barking whe-ow.

These gulls breed from Central Asia W to Ukraine and the S Caspian region, along with E to W Mongolia. They nest on barren islands in saline and fresh waters, generally in warm, dry steppe areas and mountain lakes. Colonies often relocate from year to year. Main winter areas are between E Mediterranean (westwards to Sicily) and Bay of Bengal along fish-rich coasts, rivers and lakes, also fish-ponds and reservoirs. Populations from Tibet winter mainly in Bangladesh. They are scarce southwards to Lake Turkana in Kenya and eastwards to Gulf of Thailand and Hong Kong. Regular visitor to SE Europe in increasing numbers from late 1980s, with most records May–Sep; majority recorded Hungary, Romania and Poland, probably after following Dnieper River system from Ukraine. Vagrant NW Africa, Canary Islands, Madeira, most European countries northwards to Norway, Uganda, Burundi, Vietnam, E China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan.


Gulls of the World
By Klaus Malling Olsen

With more than 50 gull species in the world, this family of seabirds poses some of the greatest field identification challenges of any bird group: age-related plumage changes, extensive variations within species, frequent hybridization, and complex distribution. 

Gulls of the World takes on these challenges and is the first book to provide a comprehensive look at these birds. Concise text emphasizes field identification, with in-depth discussion of variations as well as coverage of habitat, status, and distribution. Abundant photographs highlight identification criteria and, crucially, factor in age and subspecific field separation. Informative species accounts are accompanied by detailed color range maps.

Gulls of the World is the most authoritative photographic guide to this remarkable bird family.

  • The first book to provide in-depth coverage of all the world’s gull species
  • More than 600 stunning color photographs
  • Concise text looks at variations, habitat, status, and distribution
  • Informative species accounts and color range maps


This post is part of a series, explore additional posts here<< Bird Fact Friday – the Lesser Black-Backed GullBird Fact Friday—Giant Hummingbirds >>