Did Nelson really say that? Does this have anything to do with Horatio anyway? Who cares – there is a namesake gull that is more interesting to me – Nelson’s Gull. Can’t find it in your Field Guide? Well chances are you won’t. Nelsons are a hybrid of Glaucous Gulls and American Herring Gulls.
A similar hybrid, colloquially known as Viking Gull is attributed to hybrid Glaucous x European Herring Gulls. These seem to emanate from Iceland and some examples can be seen here:
Gulls are a mealy at any rate and seem to hybridise reasonably frequently. Separating American Herring from European Herring can be tough, and doing it in a hybrid is no easy call.
A century ago Nelson’s was suggested as being a separate species, but now it is rightly viewed as of mixed parentage.
On Friday a bird appeared at Gramsdale outfall, Benbecula for a matter of minutes and vanished not to reappear. It was either a Viking or Nelson’s – but which historical legend was it named after?
The structure of this bird was heavy and Glaucous Gull like. The bill, head shape and general feel was true Glaucous. The under and uppertail pattern was perhaps more European like, but the underwing, greater covert bar, dusky boa collar and percentage of dark in the tail swung me in favour of American parentage. Sticking my neck out I’d say Nelson’s, but with hybrids you can never be sure. At least the bill was clearly Glaucous!
I have seen at least three others like this over the years on the Hebrides, and I am sure this won’t be the last.