Hybridization and changes in the distribution of Iceland gulls (Larus glaucoides/kumlieni/thayeri



Three Iceland gull taxa were defined mainly from adult wingtip melanism. Up until about 1860, nominate glaucoides (no melanism) was known to breed from Greenland to western High Arctic Canada, but by about 1900 it was essentially confined to Greenland. Until 1860, thayeri (most melanism) was known only from western High Arctic Canada, but from 1900 to 1980 it was found throughout High Arctic Canada and in a small part of north-west Greenland. At high latitudes in Canada it replaced glaucoides, with which it was formerly sympatric in the west and probably interbred. The first known kumlieni (intermediate, variable melanism) were from west Greenland in the 1840s, and by 1900 the western and northern limits of most of its breeding range in the eastern Canadian Low/High Arctic were known. The range of kumlieni lies between those of thayeri and glaucoides and overlaps both; kumlieni bred in Greenland by 1964. It freely interbreeds with thayeri and probably with glaucoides. Winter ranges of glaucoides and thayeri have changed little since they were first determined for glaucoides by 1860 and for thayeri by the 1920s. However, winter adult kumlieni was unknown from Greenland to the British Isles until 1900; there were a few records prior to 1915 and progressively more after 1950. The study adds to the evidence that kumlieni represents introgressive hybridization by western thayeri into eastern glaucoides.

D. N. Weir died 15 August 2000.