Steppe Gull



Steppe Gull   Larus heuglini barabensis


  • Larus : Latin word for rapacious seabird
  • Heuglini : Named after German ornithologist Martin Theodor von Heuglin (1824–1876)
  • Barabensis : From Western Siberia

 Vernacular Names:  Mar: gulabi payacha kurav

Distribution in India: Widespread winter Visitor and passage migrant in the peninsular coast of West and south India and Some places in North east India.

Description: Size of 51–68 cm; wt . of 550–1200 g; wingspan of 124–158 cm. It is a medium-sized, slender, with a more rounded head, slightly thin and more drooping bill. It has longer, narrower and more pointed wings giving a more attenuated appearance at rest. The breeding adult is a dark-mantled, yellow-legged gull. The bill is yellow, with red gonydeal spot. The iris is yellow, with red orbital ring. The non-breeding adult has head and neck less heavily streaked than. The races differ mainly in size, proportions and degree of darkness of mantle and upperwings in adults: nominate fuscus is darkest, jet black above, and the smallest and longest-winged race; intermedius is sooty black; graellsii / heuglini are both dark slate-grey and barabensis is paler grey.  Juvenile (graellsii/intermedius) are dark brown with a dark mask, paler hindneck and dark centres to mantle, scapulars, coverts and tertials, with much less distinct pale margins. The bill is black and legs are pinkish. The First-winter (graellsii/intermedius) show greater rump and tail contrast, and head and upper breast whiter; greater coverts lose pale edges and become uniform dark brown. Second-winter has mantle, scapulars, tertials and median coverts dark grey or blackish (according to race), contrasting with brown rest of upperwing; rump, uppertail-coverts and tail white, with broad dark tail band. Third-winter resembles winter adult, but shows dark markings on primary-coverts and tail.

Habitat:  It is found in wide diversity of coastal and inland waters, including the open sea. It congregates to feed or roost at estuaries, harbours, lakes, reservoirs and sandy beaches. Many scavenge at rubbish dumps and in fields. It breeds mainly on sandy, rocky or grassy sea coasts, rocky islands, in saltmarshes, on islands in lakes and rivers, on roofs of buildings, on moors and on sea cliffs.

Food habitsIts  diet is diverse and opportunistic. It eats small fish, aquatic invertebrates, birds’ eggs and chicks, trawler discards, rodents and berries. Breeders tend to forage at sea to a greater .Wintering birds are reliant on garbage scavenged at rubbish dumps, which attract large numbers. It forages in deeper water, mainly by plunge-diving. Birds feeding in the intertidal zone peck at visible food items mostly.

Breeding habits: They breed in May to Jun in Russia, Britain and NW Europe. Colony sites include grassy shores, dunes, cliff tops, ledges of cliffs or buildings and rooftops. The nest is made of dry stalks, grass, lichens and feathers. They lay a clutch of 2–3 eggs. The incubation period is 24–28 days and the fledging period is 30–40 days.