(2062) Larus brunnicephalus.
THE BROWN-HEADED GULL.
Larus brunnicephalus Jerdon, Madras J. L. Sci., xii, p. 25 (1840) (India). Larus brunneicephalus. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 301.
Vernacular names. Dhomra (Hind.) ; Agha (Tibetan).
Description. Very similar to the preceding bird. The brown of the head is paler, more ashy-brown, less chocolate-brown and showing the dark ring round hind-neck and throat more conspicuously ; the first and second primaries are black with a little white at the base and a white spot near the end; the third primary is black with a white bar and from this the white increases in extent and at the same time becomes more grey so that the innermost primaries are grey with black tips.
Colours of soft parts. Iris reel-brown or yellow-brown in adults, almost white in the young; bill, mouth, eyelids, legs and feet deep red; in young birds these parts are more yellow or orange and the bill is tipped with dusky.
Measurements. Wing 330 to 348 mm.; tail 139 to 159 mm.; tarsus 49 to 55 mm.; culmen 37 to 45 mm.
In Winter the brown head is lost.
Young birds are like young Black-headed Gulls but the primaries are brownish-black, the outermost having an invisible white base, the white gradually increasing on the inner, which are also tipped white.
Most of our Indian visitors have remains of immature plumage showing, especially on the scapulars and wing-coverts.
Distribution. The Brown-headed Gull breeds on the lakes from Ladak to Eastern Tibet. It nests in large colonies on the shores and islands of the great lakes such as Hramtso at elevations between 12,500 and 15,000 feet. It is said to make a substantial nest when this is on marshy land, putting together a big pad of weeds and rushes but, when on dry ground it lays its three eggs in depressions in the soil or moss, with little or no lining. The eggs vary but little in colour compared with those of most Gulls. The ground may be white, pale yellowish or huffy-cream or, very rarely, greenish, whilst the markings consist of rather large blotches of dark vandyke or reddish-brown with secondary smaller markings of lavender. One hundred eggs average 61.3 x 42.6 mm.: maxima 66.9 x 41.4 and 65.5 x 45.6mm.; minima 57.1 x 42.7 and 65.0 x 39.1 mm. The breeding-season seems to be from the middle of June to early July.
Habits. Ludlow says that this Gull arrives at Gyantse about the middle of March and departs for the plains of Eastern India and Burma in October. Steen says that flight, voice and habits are all very similar to those of Larus ridibundus. I have seen flocks of these Gulls on the Brahmapootra in November and again in March but they generally may be seen in pairs or singly all through the Winter months.