(2063) Larus hemprichii.
THE SOOTY GULL.
Larus hemprichii Bruch, J. fur Orn., 1853, p. 106 (Red Sea). Lams hemprichii. Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 302.
Vernacular names. None recorded.
Description. A short eyebrow, white; remainder of head smoky-brown, deepening on the back of the nape and lower throat to almost black; a narrow white collar behind the nape and on the sides of the neck; upper plumage and most of the wing-coverts dark ashy-brown, more grey on the extreme upper back next the white collar; upper tail-coverts and tail white ; greater coverts tipped white; primaries black, ail but the first three or four tipped white, the inner very broadly ; outer secondaries dark grey with broad white tips, the inner like the back ; breast dark grey ; axillaries and wing-coverts dark brown ; remainder of under plumage white.
Colours of soft parts. "Iris brown : bill pale greenish-drab,the tip red, divided from the green by a black bar; legs and feet pale yellowish-drab " (Butler). " Eye-rim red " (Ticehurst).
Measurements. Wing 320 to 34S mm.; tail 139 to 159 mm.; tarsus 50 to 58 mm.; culmen 43 to 48 mm.
In Winter the white and dark collar disappears and the head and fore-neck are paler brown, much mottled and streaked with white.
Young birds have the upper plumage paler and each feather edged with whitish-brown; the tail is brown at first but in the intermediate stage is dirty mottled white with a broad brown subterminal bar.
Nestling. Dull brownish buff above, paler and less brown below; head and neck streaked with dark brown.
Distribution. Southern Red Sea and down the coasts of East Africa to Somaliland, South Arabia, Persian Gulf, Baluchistan, Mekran and Sind, once as far South as Bombay.
Nidification. This Gull breeds on islands off the coast of Mek¬ran, Somaliland and the Southern shores of the Red Sea. Butler's boatmen took big series of eggs from Astola Island, Sir Percy Cox -and Pitman took them on Laila and adjacent islands and Archer found them breeding off the coast of Somali. They are said to sometimes make "Crow-like" nests of twigs, weeds etc. on low salt-bushes and at other times to lay their eggs in hollows in rocks or scratchings in the sand with little or no nest. The eggs, which number one to three, are dull and vary little. The ground-colour is pale drab or pale stone to, exceptionally, light brown. Most eggs are marked with large, but sparse, blotches of dark and light brown with secondary smaller marks of lavender. Occasionally they are scrolled instead of blotched. Twenty-four eggs average 56.8 X 47.0 mm.: maxima 66.2 X 41.2 and 62.1 x 45.0 mm.; minima 54.0 X 40.0 and 56.0 X 39.9 mm.
This bird breeds in June, July and August when the heat is really terrific.
Habits. These Gulls are common on the coasts mentioned but leaves there about May when they resort to their breeding-islands. They feed on offal, fish, Crustacea, worms etc. and their flight is the normal easy flapping of most gulls. They are said to be very tame.