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White Eyed Gull Chart
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Published: December 8, 2018
© 2018 - 2019 seagaull

The white-eyed gull (Ichthyaetus leucophthalmus) is a small gull that is endemic to the Red Sea. Its closest relative is the sooty gull. It is one of the world's rarest gulls, with a population of 4,000 – 6,500 pairs. The species is classed as Near Threatened by the IUCN; human pressure and oil pollution are deemed the major threats. As is the case with many gulls, it has traditionally been placed in the genus Larus.


Adult white-eyed gulls have a black hood in breeding plumage, which extends down onto the upper throat, and on the neck-sides is bordered below by a narrow white bar. The upperparts and inner upperwings are medium-dark grey; the breast is mid-grey but the rest of the underparts are white. The secondaries are black with a white trailing edge, and the primaries are black. The underwing is dark and the tail white. Adults in non-breeding plumage are similar, but the hood is flecked white small white spots.

The white-eyed gull acquires adult plumage at two to three years of age. Juvenile birds have a very different plumage—chocolate brown on the head, neck and breast, and with brown, broadly pale-fringed, feathers to the upperparts and upperwings, and a black tail. In their first winter, birds acquire greyer feathering on their head, breast and upperparts; the second-winter plumage is closer to that of the adult, but lacking the hood.

A distinctive feature of white-eyed gull at all ages is its long slender bill. This is black in younger birds, but in adults it is deep red with a black tip. The legs are yellow—dullest in younger birds, brightest in breeding plumaged adults. The eye itself is not white; the bird takes its name from white eye-crescents, which are present at all ages.

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