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Updated Feb 27, 2000: I have re-studied all my photos from Bahrain and have added some extra observations in option D) below (in bold type); I also have added links to a couple of interesting U.S. birds for comparison (at the bottom of this page).
Updated Feb 26, 2000: Jon King has generously allowed me to add some of his comments; they appear at the bottom of this page. I have added some thoughts in response to the comments received so far.
Updated Feb 24, 2000: Here is the feedback on the large, LBBG/heuglini-like gull at Corpus Christi Feb 12 and 18, 2000. The only changes I have made have been for various typos/grammar problems, and occasionally to clean up a paragraph where I had to remove non-relevant parts; the "......." precedes a response after the Feb 22 update to the images:

"......I have seen a lot of taimyrensis in Beidaihe in May. Mostly flyovers, but once got a whole flock of about 200 on the deck at about 300 yards. They were all yellow-legged apart from about 3 birds. I never like it when a potential vagrant displays an unusual variation. This bird looks pink-legged to me. So you would need to argue that because the bill looks sickly then the legs would too - starting to get stringy though. How about Vega? - but shouldn't vega have a string of pearls? - not sure of my ground here (actually can I see 2 pearls on P6 and P5?). Vega has very knobbly knees which this bird seems to have also but Vega is more dumpy/bulky and the head shape doesn't look right either. I've no idea how you would eliminate graellsii x smithsonianus - but you've thought of that.
I agree it looks strange for graellsii. Funnily enough, right now (mid Feb) in Cambridge UK, graellsii (and a few intermedius) are starting to come through in numbers and some of the adults are surprisingly pale even making it tricky to tell them from michahellis when the light is awkward. Either it's natural variation or these pale birds have had rather more sun than the darker ones.
I think you will have a hard job nailing this one. Dick Newell"

".......The Gull pictures are difficult, because they are "exposed" in quite different ways, i.e. the grey tone varies considerably. My first impression is L argentatus (s. lato), and not a L graellsii. I would like however to note that the amount of white on the tips of each
primary is quite large (at least compared to our L a arg). Furthermore I don't see the double spot of P9 and P10 on the closed wing that I see on L arg, which is also visible on your Bahrain Gull (or if its P10 had a white spot you'd see it). I have NEVER failed to see this in a argentatus in Europe (except if P10 is growing). My feeling is that the bird is not quite slim enough for a L graellsii, and much less so for L fuscus (which it clearly is not). It doesn't look like the heuglinis we have here either. I don't have photos in front of me, but my recollection is that they have more black on wingtips, and much less white on P10. Also the look of the bird is not like that of Finnish heuglinis. Are there any west coast hybirds this could be? herring with california or with western-type ?
Regards, Dr. Harry J Lehto"

"I've just been looking at a load of Richard Porter's heuglini slides (Socotra) and, as you say, it isn't one of those. It does remind me of the odd potential taimyrensis photo I've seen (eg Hong Kong BR), although I am a bit surprised by the Smiths-like bulk of the head/neck/bill. I'm no expert on any of this, so interested to see what conclusion is reached by those that are.......I have been looking at lots of heuglini literature this week, but cannot apply it to your bird...
cheers, Richard Millington"

"The finest example of hybrid Lesser Black-backed x Great Black-backed Gull
that I've seen! This gull is very interesting. The long fairly heavy bill and sloping head
don't look so LBBG etc like. Some of the photos of heuglini in the 1999 Limicola articles show bills looking close to the Texas bird. Aaah it is difficult to get a feel for the size of the bill and the size of the bird without comparison birds. The dark on the bill probably means it is a 4th winter bird which could explain the pink instead of yellow legs. Even if all you get out of this bird is more research it is great bird.Good to hear you can eliminate taimyrensis. Odds of it being a gull from the Middle East seem remote. Concede it to a hybrid something. File it under 'lost for ever, never to be IDed gulls'. LBBGx HEGU is a real possibility. The tail did appear short. Is this an important mark? Icelands often appeared long tailed but never really considered tail length to be a worth while feature in any big gull.
Keep Trying......The odds of it being a LBBG with influences from a HEGU lover along the way are humongous. You can quote me on this. Bruce Mactavish"

"VERY Interesting bird. Some comments on taimyrensis.
Taimyrensis does not winter in the Middle East. According to Lars Jonsson, it doesn't occur there. Pierre Yesou says he has seen a few there. So they are rare or absent. Taimyrensis winters further east (Hong Kong, north to Japan(?) according to Lars), may be India(?).
Taimyrensis does not breed in the Taimyr but on the lower Yenisei valley. It is probably closely related to heuglini, being a bit larger and paler. Either an old hybrid swarm between heuglini and vegae or a heuglini population that is paler because it winters in a more humid climate than the Middle East (this is Lars Jonsson's idea). Birds breeding on the Taimyr are vegae (or birulai if you believe they are a bit different from the vegae further east). I have no first hand experience with taimyrensis.
All the best, Pierre-Andre Crochet"

"I have my concerns over the description for Heuglins. I am not the least bit expert but the legs sound too fleshy (they strike me in HK as yellow or even on the orange side) and the dark around the eye seems wrong for mid-Feb. Of course that is taimyrensis and this would not be that race. But, I do not know what else it might be........On the gull front, I am somewhere in the middle on this mess. I agree hybrid is a too convenient cop out, especially when we cannot understand the variation within a species. But, on the other hand, my recent trip to BC reminded me of how awful it is in some of these areas; I am literally talking hundreds of h-things. Many were in the GW X HE camp, which is a further mess when dealing with Thayer's (like the one on your website I don't like). Time to get a gun and get a real close look at this thing! I wonder if it could be a mideast bird. When in Saudi, I would languish for hours over whether a bird had pink or yellow legs. I have never done that, knowingly, with LBBG adults. Nor have I had that issue on 10 HK trips with those birds. Matt Heindel"

"Well, those gull images look real interesting. As for the Corpus gull, hmmm. Taimyrensis isn't a bird I know at all. I looked for related forms north of St Lucia, S. Africa (the southern extreme of wintering range for Heuglin's Gull, I think) without luck. I think, probably, you've got about as good a candidate there as one could have. If it's any help, birds that I've photographed and assumed were Herring x Lesser Black-backed Gull did not look like that. Ned Brinkley"

"I saw the weird gull and was immediately of the opinion that it is not an LBBG. I was able to study it at 60x standing next to HEGU's, which it seemed to duplicate for size,
structure, exactly. I have always felt that our LBBG's are a bit more delicate, slender, not so thick through the sternum, etc. This bird's head is quite large-appearing and the eye markings are just wrong for our basic LBBG's. I was really unable to get a look at the bird's rump, because of the way it stood the entire time, so was unable to get any feel for wing/tail ratio. The mantle color looked consistent with the shade of LBBG, but the tone looked different. I felt that the thin streaking on the head and nape was unusual for HEGU, and, I must admit, favored the thin streaking of LBBG. Not diffused like typical HEGU. The eye color seemed to be a medium amber, darker than typical HEGU, but not as dark as CAGU. The bill seemed, unquestionably, to be too thick and bulbous for LBBG. Quite
similar to the structure of the bills of the surrounding HEGU's. The legs were a pale flesh/pink with the feet a bit pinker. In flight, I was able to see the large white spot in P10, and what was apparently a smaller spot in P9. I shot some photos through my scope of the standing bird. Don't know how that will turn out. I would be easy to convince that this is a dark-mantled HEGU. If the tone of the discussions turn to the dreaded "H" word,
I'll watch from the bleachers. Mel Cooksey"

"taimyrensis is pictured in the big gull article from the 1994 Hong Kong bird report. "Your" bird really looks like a hybrid HEGU X GBBG. Size, mantle, bill, primaries, legs, head shape, all look good. Have you looked at the link below? http://www.virtualbirder.com/simon/gull.html
Regards, Bob Lewis"

"Looks like a taimyrensis to me based on the birds I have seen here. This bird
would blend in perfectly with the birds on the beach here.......I can differentiate the gulls here with (apparently?) little difficulty, but I see assigning them to a form as just a matter of which paper I have read. I have noticed that the cachinanns form are widespread on the northern coast of Oman, and the "taimyrensis/heuglini" forms are common on the east and south coasts. I use Garner's study of these gulls in UAE as the basis for all my "assumptions". In Oman the larger taimyrensis/heuglini forms are present. I would say that only 5% of the birds are the darker backed ones (I call them heuglini). The paler mantled ones predominate and I'd say that 70% of these are pink legged and fierce looking. I'd rate taimyrensis more fierce than heuglini. Dave Sargeant (living in Oman)"

"........Well, now I'm curious to learn more about taimyrensis. Exactly how does a true taimyrensis differ from this bird? Secondly, how does a paler, pinker-legged taimyrensis-birulai intergrade (apparently regular in Japan) differ from this bird? Finally, what are these pink-legged Oman birds??? What are the options? Steve Hampton"

"I favour a hybrid graellsii X smithonianus but would not rule out an odd graellsii. I think the bird is not fully adult (possibly four years old) and find no evidence clearly pointing at a bird coming from arctic central Asia from the heuglini/taimyrensis complex.
Lars Jonsson"

"First, some comments on distribution. The taxon taimyrensis is not known to winter anywhere except East Asia (pers. obs., Martin Garner, Lars Jonsson pers. comms.). Birds formerly ascribed to this taxon from the Middle East and Africa are now known to be heuglini (in East Africa, the Middle East and parts of Arabia) and barabensis (in Arabia to western India). So taimyrensis is not known to winter west of SE Asia, and
birds in HK and Japan are typical of that taxon. There is variation in taimyrensis, as a result primarily of hybridisation with vegae on the Taimyr peninsula. However, the breeding range of taimyrensis is actually rather small (the lower Yenisey and western Taimyr), so aside from hybridisation, opportunity for variation is fairly limited.
The two pictures at the foot of the web page (now one image - Mike Hill's from Bahrain that appears to be a heuglini) do not appear to be taimyrensis - I would suspect they may be barabensis (the lower one was Id'd as barabensis by Lars Jonsson, thus I have removed it), given the awkward, cachinnans-like structure, white head and (on my screen at least) pinkish salmon leg color, though without an exact date it is hard to say (they could be heuglini).

Many heuglini/taimyrensis are indistinguishable from LBBG (taken to mean graellsii, intermedius and intergrades) based on current knowledge. I recently showed some taimyrensis pictures from Japan to some European gull experts, and they were unanimous that such (non-moulting) birds would be inseperable from LBBG. Moult differences are crucial, though may be less valuable in North America where LBBGs appear to moult
later than in Europe (pers. data from LSUMZ specimens). Based on observations from Japan and HK, I would expect an adult taimyrensis in mid-February to still be completing p10 (maybe even p9). Differences in iris colour, structure, and upperparts colouration
are subtle and there is considerable overlap. Iris colour of adult taimyrensis (and heuglini) is pale (birds showing duskiness are usually hybrids with vegae), and upperparts colouration varies from as dark as intermedius to as pale as graellsii (true graellsii that is, not N Am birds, many of which are closer to graellsii-intermedius
intergrades; pers. data). Leg colour of adult taimyrensis is yellow as LBBG - earlier
reports of flesh and pink colours seem to refer to hybrids with vegae.

Presence of a mirror on p9 may be important. This is shown by no more than 20% of adult heuglini (probably less than 15%; Klaus Malling Olsen pers comm), and even fewer taimyrensis (pers obs). There are various minor differences in primary pattern between heuglini and taimyrensis, but I won't go into those here. The pattern of head streaking is somewhat helpful, being fine delicate grey streaks mainly on the hindneck in taimyrensis, forming a prominant "half-necklace". I have not seen a taimyrensis with significant smudging around the eye like graellsii, but it may occur. According to my notes, I don't think I have ever seen taimyrensis with the tail falling short of p6; it is
always short of p7 however (as with heuglini, and almost all graellsii).

Where does this leave the CC bird? I'm not sure. It looks interesting, and a heuglini/taimyrensis is a possibility. A few things aren't ideal for one or other of those taxa (head pattern, iris, pattern of p9, size, moult). I am a bit concerned by the size being as smithsonianus - having seen taimyrensis and smithsonianus together in Japan, the
latter appears significantly larger, and the wholly distinct structure gives a very different feel. Given that it was described as a little paler than LBBG, and with the size, could it be an LBBG-smithsonianus hybrid, a combination which is surely much more common than records suggest? Personally I couldn't even rule out an atypical LBBG, which would also be quite parsimonious. Jon King"

Okay, some final thoughts from me (Martin Reid):
A) We seem to have ruled out true taimyrensis.
B) It could be graellsii. - the shade of the mantle would seem to rule out intermedius or a graellsii-intermedius intergrade - indeed the paleness and size of this bird makes all North American gullers feel it is not "their" LBBG and could be a hybrid; thus perhaps it is a true graellsii (as seen in NW Europe). We know that fully-adult LBBGs can have irregular patches of black on the bill (see Graeme the graellsii - which of course may not be pure graellsii!), so this bird might be in its first adult plumage (maybe the fleshy tone of the bill-base is a sign of this?) - or it could easily be much older as there are no signs of immaturity in the plumage. Based on size and structure, it is probably a male. So, what percentage of adult male graellsii would combine: a slimmish even-sided bill that lacks a gonydal angle and has a rather drawn-out tip (i.e. "shallow" culmen curve); irides flecked with dark such that they tend to look amber rather than clearly pale; legs that are mostly clearly pinkish; a small but obvious broken black subterminal band on P4; have P10 not quite fully-grown in mid-February; have the P10 mirror well-separated from the tip; have very light, sparse streaking on the head with stronger streaking on the nape in mid-February. If you have a photo of such a graellsii, please share it with us.
C) It could be a hybrid. This presumed HEGUx GBBG shows some similarities, but has a yellowish orbital ring (blood-red on the Corpus bird). Some who have seen presumed HEGUx LBBG state that they do not look like this bird (how?), and I still wonder if any plausible hybrid would produce the suite of characters seen on this bird - especially the wing/tail ratio and the deep red orbital color.
D) It could be some type of heuglini. "Typical" heuglini differ from this bird in that they appear smaller, darker-backed (but this is subjective), often have yellow legs, and rarely have a mirror on P9. They do have the streaking strongest on the hindneck, with varying amounts on the head (but usually it is sparse and always less obvious than the neck marks); sometimes are pinkish-legged; usually have a less-bulbous bill with a more pointed tip (and on basic birds that otherwise look adult, sometimes the basal two-thirds are paler yellow with a fleshy tone, as in the Corpus bird); sometimes have darkish eyes and often have the eyes pale-flecked-darker. Of eleven adult/subadult birds where the tail position is visible in my photos from Bahrain, six are clearly inside or almost level with the tip of P6, three were only just beyond the P6 tip, and only two were half-way towards the tip of P7. There is a form of heuglini that is scarce in Bahrain (but apparently more common in Oman) that is larger (sometimes much larger), paler on the mantle, longer-legged, usually has pinkish legs; often has a longish, even-sided bill with some dark marks near the tip, and PERHAPS tend more often to have a small mirror on P9 as the mirror of P10 tends to be larger than normal heuglini. This form has no name that I am aware of (I'll call it the Big Pale Heuglini)and its breeding grounds are unknown (I think). I can only locate a couple of images of this Big Pale Heuglini, and one is that by Mike Hill near the bottom of the main page. Look at this enlargement showing the folded wings of Mike's Bahrain bird (bottom) and the Corpus bird:

A = P5
B = P6
C = P7
D = P8
E = P9
F = P10

P = displaced P9 from opposite wing

Y = P9 mirror
Z = P10 mirror on opposite wing
Y2 = P9 mirror on displaced feather of opposite wing
Z2 = P10 mirror on near wing

- notice how similar they are, especially the spacing and size of the primary tips, the size and position of the P9 mirror, the size and position of the P10 mirror on the opposing wing, and note that P10 is marginally shorter than P9 on the Corpus bird (perhaps still growing?), thus no P10 tip is visible on the near wing. The question remains: is this particular Bahrain individual typical of the Big Pale Heuglinis?
Here are a couple of birds from Howard King's collection of images; I do not claim to have firmly identified them, but they do show some similarities to the Corpus bird:
http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/Vines/9121/Feb29_07.jpg .
http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/Vines/9121/Feb29_05.jpg .
This recent Corpus bird is not the first in Texas to show some heuglini-like characters; take a look at this alternate-plumaged bird from April.
Finally, I just found Robert Lewis' "Max the Lesser" web entry, and there are some intriguing similarities; I wonder how that individual now matches-up to our increased (yet incomplete) knowledge of heuglini?

I agree with a number of expert gullers who feel that until a pattern is documented, only "classic" individuals should be seriously considered for taxa unrecorded in North America. Thus this interesting bird joins many others in the "not sure" category; this web page and all the input may help us make progress on these birds in the future.
As always, more input would be gratefully received and shared via this page (with your approval).