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The paper Identification of the Larus canus Complex by Peter Adriaens and Chris Gibbins is published as a special issue of Dutch Birding; the paper is groundbreaking as it treats the entire Mew Gull Larus canus complex for the first time. The paper's focus is on plumage variation of all four taxa of Mew Gull, providing details on combinations of plumage characteristics to identify each taxon. Based on the findings the taxonomy is discussed as well, and species status is proposed for brachyrhynchus (Short-billed Gull).
For several decades, there has been much attention for the taxonomy and identification of gulls. Most attention has been paid to 'large white-headed gulls', the group that once comprised simply Herring Gull Larus argentatus and Lesser Black-backed Gull L. fuscus, but is now considered a complex of seven or more species. Small gull species, however, have received less attention, whereas the recognition and taxonomy of this group also hold many unresolved questions. The paper addresses a large number of these questions.
For instance, the paper helps birders to identify the taxon heinei (Russian Common Gull) in the field; the status of heinei in western Europe is still unclear – vagrant or regular winter visitor? The paper also presents the knowledge necessary to identify vagrants, such as brachyrhynchus in eastern Asia and western Europe (it has been recorded in the Azores), nominate canus (Common Gull) in eastern North America, or kamtschatschensis (Kamtchatka Gull) in western North America or in western Asia (or further west...).
The publication of the paper emphasizes the position and ambitions of Dutch Birding on the (field) ornithological frontier, with 'heavy' subjects not being avoided. It also shows what passionate birders can achieve when motivation, knowledge and the necessary logistical and financial support are available.
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