Identifying most gulls is challenging at the best of times but when there is also the specter of hybrids as well then things can often get a little troublesome. However a further aspect to consider are leucistic birds, individuals lacking normal pigmentation, thus presenting confusion with other species, such as Iceland, Kumliens and Glaucous Gulls.

The following are a number of images that highlight this:


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Leucistic Gulls - Larus sp.
UK & North America

 

Great Black-backed Gull, leucistic 1st winter, Undisclosed, Essex January through March 2014
Monster of a bird was seen again today, seen here a couple of weeks ago. This bird is confirmed as 1st year despite the pale eye and massively bi-coloured. It was rung as pullus / chick on the south coast of Norway near Mandar, Vest-Agder on 20th June 2013 and was one of three chicks from normally pigmented parents, it and one sibling are leucistic while the third chick is normally pigmented.


Herring Gull, Leucistic second -winter, Essex 8th December 2012
I have included an extended series of shots of this facinating bird, a complete mishmash of white and normal pigment feathers. Note the washed out bill colour also.
The open wing shot really does show the variation in the plumage.
Herring Gull : Leucistic second-winter - Undisclosed, South Essex, 6th December 2014
Striking white at range the washed out tea coloured primaries and diluted tail pattern point the age of the bird to either first or second year whilst the pale eye surely seals it as a second year bird.
 
Herring Gull : Leucistic second-winter? - Undisclosed, South Essex, 22nd December 2014
Fairly similar to the previous bird however this individual was fully white winged, no milky white primaries
 
Herring Gull, second or third winter, Essex 18th December 2011 
Tentatively aged as a second-year due to all pale grey 'saddle' and pale washed out brown outer primaries but could also be  a third-winter due to extensively pale yellow bill.
1st-Winter: Private Site, Essex - 7th February 2009

This partially albino bird could easily be identified as an Iceland Gull is seen at range however on close inspection there are dark feathers around the base of the neck and neck sides and a around the throat. The undertail coverts and tail were as normal 1st-winter Herring Gull. Note the lack of normal 1st-winter colour to the bill, completely washed out pale pink. Structure also fits with Herring Gull rather than any of the large white-winged gulls.

1st-Winter:Private Site, Essex - 16th August 2009

This bird, the same that was present at the same site in February and March 2009, has replaced its flight feathers and quite remarkably has replaced P10 on the right wing with a jet black feather and not a white one!.

Other plumage characters remain the same, the first year tail pattern though now a little faded and the half collar, also faded and less obvious. The pale pinkish bill is clearly large. In this shot the barred axillaries can be seen though only some of this feather group are 'normal'

1st-Winter:Private Site, Essex - 16th August 2009

Same bird as above. Here the underwing can be seen clearly and it is obvious there is a no corresponding darker feathers on the left wing, the axillaries are plain white and there is no double spots in the underwing coverts. This is a very unusual albino.

2nd-Winter: Private Site, Essex - 30th August 2010
The same bird from above re-appeared the following summer and it continued to amaze and perplex at the same time.

The tail is faded however note the interesting goings on in the outer primaries on the right wing. P10 is now completely white, which was completely black a year ago, whilst P9 has a brown narrow outer web and P8 is completely faded brown as opposed to white in 2009.


Adult: Barling Rubbish Tip, Essex - 28th October 2006

Here we have a leucistic adult. A very pale whitish bird with subdued primary colouration. t, and the other Herring Gulls around it, are still regrowing their primaries thus giving a shorter winged impression than normally expected in mid winter.

Such a bird could be claimed as a Glaucous-winged Gull on brief views however there is the typical Herring Gull structure, wing tip pattern and pale eyed.
Leucistic Adult: Private Site, Essex - 10th August 2013

Could this be a reappearing leucistic bird from previous years just growing in age?

Initially thought Glaucous Gull at range but when got the views such as this a little later the truth was reveal, especially from the flight shots. With the bird standing the rear end is a little to long for a Glaucous Gull and the head and bill also not quite right but the overall pale tones and bright pink flushed legs lend a white-winger feel.
Leucistic Adult: Private Site, Essex - 10th August 2013

Same bird as above

Clearly very white-winged the dusky marks in the outer primaries are the feather shafts whilst there are mid grey feathers on the median coverts and some of the outer greater primary coverts. Note however the short P6 on both wings still growing that show a black subterminal band whilst P5 of the left wing has a darkish wedge to the outer web. The apparent dark mark on the tail is in fact its foot.
Herring Gull, leucistic 1st / 2nd winter, Undisclosed, Essex 2nd March 2013
Note the extreme similarity to the the Great Black-backed Gull above. The bill is very pale and the eye still dark, I suspect this bird is a first-year. Note the pale buffish primaries. Structurally the bird is Herring Gull.

Herring Gull, Leucistic adult, Undisclosed, Essex 24th November 2014
Very similar to the bird above from 2006 with perhaps slightly darker, but still washed out brown primaries. Difficult to tell but could it be the same bird?
Herring Gull : 1st-Winter: Private Site, Essex - 7th February 2009

Same bird as above but now on the ground

The bill is insipid pale fleshy pink at the basal half and pale off yellow at the distal end.

The striking feature is the mottled brown half collar and apparently normal tail and upper / uner-tail coverts.
Herring Gull : 1st-Winter: Private Site, Essex - 14th March 2009

Same bird as above but just over a month later

Herring Gull : 1st-Winter: Private Site, Essex - 7th August 2009

Again same bird as above but now in the summer


Herring Gull : 1st-Winter: Private Site, Essex - 13th February 2010

Same bird as above.

The right wing shows the now white P10 and dark brown P9 and an extremely abraded P8. Tail is still first / second year. Bill shows a little bird dark around the Gonys.
Herring Gull : 2nd-Winter: Private Site, Essex - 30th July 2010

The infamously rung SH1T.

Aged as a second year due to pale eye, paling bill and pale washed out brown and rounded new primaries, the older first generation primaries are still present but show as little more than white shafts.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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More Leucistic Gulls >>
Leucistic Great Black-backed Gull : Undisclosed Location, 24th January 2015
This large startling white gull, same as above, is now back for another winter being first seen here in January 2014. It hasn't changed much.
Leucistic Great Black-backed Gull : Undisclosed Location, 6th February 2016
The big White Great Black-backed Gull has returned for yet another winter and again its plumages hasn't really changed much as its gotten older
Leucistic Great Black-backed Gull : Undisclosed Location, 7th January 2017
Another year older than the above and it still looks much the same despite not yet reaching adulthood