Skip to Content

Gull: Kelp (Cape Gull)

Identify and index birds in Southern Africa
User avatar
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Posts: 1360
Joined: Thu Dec 23, 2004 1:38 pm

Gull: Kelp (Cape Gull)

Unread post by francoisd » Thu Sep 07, 2006 3:52 pm

Cape Gull (Larus vetula)


This bird used to be called Cape Kelp Gull but is seems that it was split into Cape Gull and Kelp Gull.

This from the website of the Avian Demography Unit

The taxon of "Kelp Gull" which occurs along southern African coastline was, until recently, treated as the subspecies Larus dominicanus vetula. This taxon has now been recognized as a good species with scientific names Larus vetula. The proposed English name is Cape Gull. The iris of dominicanus is pale grey or pale yellow, whereas vetula has a dark brown iris. The taxon vetula is on average larger than dominicanus, and vetula also has a more domed skull.

You will find them in most of the coastal parks

User avatar
Senior Virtual Ranger
Senior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 1227
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:41 pm
Location: Gauties .

Unread post by bucky » Thu Sep 07, 2006 4:11 pm

Which 1 would this be francois ?


User avatar
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Posts: 1360
Joined: Thu Dec 23, 2004 1:38 pm

Unread post by francoisd » Thu Sep 07, 2006 4:19 pm

Would say it's a Cape Gull as the picture of a Kelp Gull in SASOL shows a clear pale (whitish) eye.

As to Kelp Gulls in RSA the following again from the ADU website:

There are two records of the nominate Kelp Gull on the continent of Africa. The first was made on 23 October 1982, when a dying bird was found near Yzerfontein, Western Cape. The second record, made on 26 October 1985, was also made near Yzerfontein. These birds were found during the monthly patrols for beached seabirds coordinated since 1978 by Dr Graham Avery of the South African Museum, Cape Town. Both birds were preserved as osteological specimens, and are in the collection of the South African Museum, Cape Town.
"The measure of life is not its duration but its donation." - Peter Marshall

User avatar
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
Posts: 246
Joined: Mon Oct 17, 2005 1:47 pm
Location: Eish !

Re: Cape Gull

Unread post by cybeR@NGER » Thu Sep 07, 2006 9:53 pm

Roberts VII now refers to these species only as Kelp Gull (R313), with the scientific name of Larus dominicanus (dominicanus = the pied plumage which resembles the traditional habits of the Dominicans).

Then, the species is broken down into two subspecies:
- dominicanus vetula, our common resident variety, occuring extensively in the Southern Hemisphere, including coasts of Peru, Chile, Argentina, southern Brasil, Antarctic Peninsula, subantarctic islands, New Zealand, Australia, Madagascar and throughout the coast of southern Africa. This is the variation that SASOL Third Edition calls Cape Gull Larus vetula.
- dominicanus judithae, which SASOL refers to as Kelp Gull Larus dominicanus, the very rare variation with the neat, rounded head, vermillion eye ring and the pale ivory to yellow eye during breeding season.
Life is uncertain - eat your dessert first.

User avatar
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Distinguished Virtual Ranger
Posts: 1360
Joined: Thu Dec 23, 2004 1:38 pm

Unread post by francoisd » Tue Sep 12, 2006 12:43 pm

After posting this message on Cape Gull and reading in SASOL that the Kelp Gull has a whitish eye, I noticed that the gull posted by HoepHoep in her "Tsitsikamma 2006" trip report displayed a light eye. I emailed the photo to a friend of mine to see if he could maybe positively ID it as a Kelp Gull.

It does however not seem to be as easy as looking for an pale eye.

He sent me this photo of a "Cape Gull" showing a pale eye and also included some text by Trevor Hardeker that appeared on SABirdNet a couple of years ago.

Photo taken by Tertius Gous in West Coast National Park on 11 September 2004.

(I included an enlargment of the eye of the bird - click the image to enlarge)

Text by Trevor Hardeker
Larus d. dominicanus (nominate Kelp Gull) occurs in Australasia, South America, Antarctica and on most of the subantartic islands. Larus d. vetula (aka Cape Gull) is an endemic subspecies (currently considered for full specific status) to Southern Africa. Most books dealing with seabirds cover both of these as subspecies at least. Nominate Kelp Gull also occurs as a vagrant in Southern Africa, with recent records coming from the west coast near Cape Town and the Eastern Cape.

Superficially, differences are that Kelp Gull has a pale eye (beware that some Cape Gulls can show this feature, but Kelp Gull's eye is generally smaller), a smaller more rounded head and a slighter bill. Other suggested differences, although not cast in stone yet as far as I am aware, are that Kelp Gull has a narrower white tip to the tertials and slightly more yellower legs.

Peter Ryan wrote an article on these two gulls in AB&B about a year ago (I can't remember the issue number) and the latest issue of Birding World (one of the top U.K. birding magazines) has a detailed article on the identification of "Kelp" Gulls covering both dominicanus and vetula.

As far as web resources go, try the excellent "Gull Identification Website" which covers the ID's of all the world's gulls in some detail. This site is very useful for all gull watchers and for learning more about the possible gulls that could still occur in SA. Martin Reid's gull website is also well worth a visit, if you are interested in finding out more about gulls. Both these sites have lots of photos.

User avatar
Johan van Rensburg
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Award: Birder of the Year (2015)
Posts: 2543
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2006 3:33 pm
Location: Jam Street

Unread post by Johan van Rensburg » Fri Aug 08, 2008 11:15 am

Some images of the Cape Gull in flight. The white trailing edge on the wing is reputedly narrower in the Kelp and lesser black-backed gulls. The second bird is of a juvenile Cape gull.

Large view

Large view

Both Kelp (vagrant) and lesser black-backed (uncommon visitor) gulls have the light eye.
728 Latest lifers: Hartlaub's babbler, Coppery-tailed coucal, Red-billed spurfowl, White-browed coucal, Scharlow's turaco, Copper sunbird, Long-toed lapwing, Eastern bronze-naped pigeon, Malagasy pond heron, Soft-plumaged petrel, Orange-winged pytilia.

Posts: 8
Joined: Wed May 06, 2009 1:44 pm

Identification Help - General Birds

Unread post by basde_vos » Sun Aug 16, 2009 9:49 pm

Hi all,

Need some id help again. All pics where made in Cape of Good Hope.

Link removed because the picture does not show anymore



User avatar
Junior Virtual Ranger
Junior Virtual Ranger
Posts: 115
Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:39 pm
Location: Bristol, United Kingdom

Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread post by davejenny » Sun Aug 16, 2009 11:27 pm

Hi Basde_vos - I think your birds are the following:

6. Kelp Gull (Immature)

Too far from the Kruger.... looking forward to my next trip....
Details of last trip:
Pretoriuskop- 11-14/10/2017
Skukuza - 15-17/10/2017
Satara - 18/10/2017
Orpen - 19/10/2017
Satara - 20-21/10/2017
Skukuza - 22-23/10/2017

Posts: 72
Joined: Thu Mar 05, 2009 1:00 pm
Location: Lyngby , Denmark

Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread post by JOL » Mon Aug 17, 2009 1:15 am

Hi Guys ,

I think Davejenny got it right.



User avatar
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
Posts: 2477
Joined: Sat Mar 29, 2008 7:05 pm
Location: Looking for Bats...

Re: Identification Help - General Birds

Unread post by Batmad » Mon Aug 17, 2009 10:18 am

Agree with Davejenny's answers :thumbs_up:
Avid birder, wildlife enthusiast and photographer with a special interest in Bats and Birds

2014 Birding Big Year- A 365 Day quest for 800 Species of Southern African Birds

User avatar
Posts: 45460
Joined: Thu Dec 30, 2004 5:54 pm
Location: The Beautiful Cape

Re: Gull: Cape

Unread post by DinkyBird » Sun Aug 15, 2010 7:27 pm

Storms River, Aug 2010:
- Dalene

User avatar
Lizet Grobbelaar
Virtual Ranger
Virtual Ranger
Posts: 560
Joined: Mon May 04, 2009 3:23 pm
Location: Pretoria

Re: Gull: Cape

Unread post by Lizet Grobbelaar » Sun Aug 15, 2010 8:31 pm

Great close-up well done! :clap:

User avatar
Posts: 214
Joined: Wed May 31, 2006 1:26 pm
Location: Fourways, Johannesburg

Re: Gull: Cape

Unread post by Scottm » Fri Jan 06, 2012 6:17 pm

Any update on the status of naming and identifyit these gulls?

RobertsVII # Name
312 Kelp Gull
313 Lesser Black-backed Gull

and so what about the Cape Gull?

"Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints"

Photographs help to crystallize memories, but cannot be seen to be a replacement of them!

User avatar
Legendary Virtual Ranger
Legendary Virtual Ranger
FAC Member (2016)
Posts: 2146
Joined: Wed Mar 08, 2006 11:58 am

Identification Help - General Birds

Unread post by roaneric » Tue Aug 30, 2016 1:34 pm

Hi Everyone

I'm a newbie in birding and decided to make my first bird list. I went through all the bird pics I took the last 10 years and my list coming on nicely. I just have trouble ID some of the birds (either the pics are not that good or I can't seem to ID them correctly) so I need help please. Here is my LBJ pics I have trouble with

I changed the lightning and zoomed in so you can see better on some of the photos

Bird 1 Is this a Kelp gull? (August, Hartenbos)
Last edited by roaneric on Tue Aug 30, 2016 1:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
All on my lonesome ownsome in Kruger

"I am not African because I was born in Africa, but because Africa was born in me"

User avatar
Posts: 8496
Joined: Fri Dec 30, 2011 1:09 pm
Location: Pretoria, SA

Identification Help - General Birds

Unread post by barryels » Wed Aug 31, 2016 8:22 am

Hi roaneric,

Here are my ID's of your birdies:

1. Kelp Gull
Always be humble and understanding.

Return to “Birding in Southern Africa”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

Webcam Highlights

Submitted by engelas777 at 22:35:02
Submitted by MegganS at 23:24:53
Submitted by Anonymous at 03:29:01
Submitted by MegganS at 21:25:50