28 February 2020

Monthly Notables February 2020


  • Little Gull (adult type). Caddo Parish, Louisiana. 01 February 2020.
    • 1st county record. 
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle). Val Verde County, Texas. 01 February 2020.
  • Kamchatka Gull (adult). Delaware County, Pennsylvania. 01 February 2020.
    • Pending acceptance.
  • Kamchatka Gull (adult). Essex County, Massachusetts. 01 February 2020.
  • Common Gull (adult). Essex County, Massachusetts. 03 February 2020.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Norfolk County, Massachusetts. 03 February 2020.
  • California Gull (1st cycle). Nueces County, Texas. 04 February 2020.
  • Mew Gull (1st cycle). Nueces County, Texas. 04 February 2020.
  • Slaty-back Gull (adult). St. John's County, Newfoundland. 04 February 2020.
  • Laughing Gull (1st cycle). Essex County, New York. 05 February 2020.
    • Apparent 1st winter record for Lake Champlain basin & Adironacks.
  • Black-headed Gull (1st cycle). Okaloosa County, Florida. 06 February 2020.
  • Ivory Gull (1st cycle). Lake County, Montana. 08 February.
    • Continuing from January.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Tompkins County, New York. 09 February 2020.
  • California Gull (1st cycle). Cuyahoga County, Ohio. 11 February 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Monterey County, California. 13 February 2020.
  • Vega Gull (adult). San Mateo County, California. 14 February 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Yolo County, California. 15 February 2020.
    • Likely same individual from January.
  • California Gull (adult). St. Joseph County, Indiana. 15 February 2020.
  • Little Gull (adult). Dallas County, Texas. 16 February 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Cuyahoga County, Ohio. 19 February 2020.
    • 2nd State Record. 1st County Record.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Del Norte County, California. 25 February 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). San Mateo County, California. 29 February 2020.

27 February 2020

February 2020 Quiz

Age: The plain brown upperparts and pointed primary tips suggest a 1st cycle which appears to be mostly juvenile (1st basic). The dark auriculars may also clue us in to a bird that has hatched not too long ago.

Identification: The milky-brown plumage aspect, with muted and plain wing coverts are very suggestive of Glaucous-winged. The eye is disproportionately small for such a large face, also suggesting a Pacific Northwest taxon. The outer primaries and uppertail contrast with the rest of the plumage, indicating a darker-winged species may be involved. This is usually a draw between Western and Herring, and knowing the location and time of year would be helpful. The bill isn't too large, or at least the tip isn't as bulbous or blob-tipped like many Western x Glaucous-wingeds. Further, the upperparts all have distinct notching to their edges, something frequently found in Herring x Glaucous-wingeds. To further rule out Western influence, note that the covert rows don't have any wavy barring or checkered patterning.

This individual was photographed on the Kenai Peninsula in late August, the origin of many Herring x Glaucous-winged Gulls. Another photo below in profile, giving a better idea of how dark the primaries are - a little too dark to be comfortably called a pure Glaucous-winged in the Cook Inlet region.

01 February 2020

Monthly Notables January 2020

  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Riverside County, California. 01 January 2020.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Riverside County, California. 02 January 2020.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). San Diego County, California. 05 January 2020.
  • Heermann's Gull (1st cycle). Palm Beach County, Florida. 06 January 2020.
    • Continuing.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (adult). Osage County, Kansas. 06 January 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Benton County, Washington. 10 January 2020.
  • Glaucous-winged Gull (adult). Salt Lake County, Utah. 11 January 2020.
  • Mew Gull (1st cycle). Nueces County, Texas. 12 January 2020.
  • California Gull (adult). Sarasota County, Florida. 12 January 2020.
  • Little Gull (adult). Davidson County, Tennessee. 12 January 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). San Mateo County, California. 14 January 2020.
  • Little Gull (adult). Rankin County, Mississippi. 14 January 2020.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Eddy County, New Mexico. 14 January 2020.
  • Laughing Gull (1st cycle). Pictou County, Nova Scotia. 16 January 2020.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (1st cycle). Boulder County, Colorado. 19 January 2020.
  • Common Gull (adult). Bristol County, Massachusetts. 20 January 2020.
    • 1st county record of this subspecies.
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle). Escambia County, Florida. 20 January 2020.
  • Kamchatka Gull (adult). Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. 23 January 2020.
    • Pending acceptance. 
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Monterey County, California. 23 January 2020.
  • Little Gull (2nd cycle). Caddo Parish, Louisiana. 24 January 2020.
  • California Gull (subadult). Sangamon County, Illinois. 25 January 2020.
  • Black-headed Gull (1st cycle). Lee County, Florida. 25 January 2020.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (1st cycle). Larimer County, Colorado. 26 January 2020.
    • Apparently the same individual from Boulder County. 
  • California Gull (1st cycle). Ketchikan Gateway County, Alaska. 26 January 2020.
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). Orange County, California. 29 January 2020.
  • Ivory Gull (1st cycle). Lake County, Montana. 30 January 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Yolo County, California. 31 January 2020.

January 2020 Quiz

Aging this one is a bit trickier than usual, and should be done in conjunction with its identity. The underbody and wing linings are very adult-like, but confusing here is a largely black tail, no mirrors and a pale iris.

This species has a longer and thinner than average bill when compared to most other 4 years gulls. The upperparts, at least what we can detect from them on the upperside of the far wing, are somewhere between a Laughing Gull and pale-end Lesser Black-backed Gull.

The yellow legs and proximal-red, distal-black, bill tip pattern are very helpful to narrowing this down to Black-tailed Gull. The black tailband and uniformly broad white tips to the tail is key. No other species in North America will show this.

As for its age, the black splotches across the secondary centers and dusky under primary coverts make it fairly safe to call it a 3rd cycle type.

A complete dorsal view of this beauty:

3rd Cycle Black-tailed Gull. Choshi, Japan. December.

11 January 2020

1st Cycle Vega Gulls

A small set of 1st cycle Vega Herrings from the Pacific Coast of Japan. Chiba Prefecture. December-January. 

Juvenile Scapular patterns are variable, but in general, a much neater and tidier look than American Herring. Most feathers have pale edging throughout, and many lower scaps have what I'm calling a "Native American arrowhead" pattern. There are also diamond and heart-shaped dark centers on many individuals that I've not noted on Smithsonianus.


04 January 2020

Monthly Notables December 2019

  • Ross's Gull (adult). King County, Washington. 01 December 2019.
    • 3rd State Record.
  • Heermann's Gull (adult type). Tarrant County, Texas. 02 December 2019.
    • 5th State Record.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Brant County, Ontario. 06 December 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Niagara County, Ontario. 08 December 2019.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. 06 December 2019.
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). La Vallee-du-Richelieu County, Quebec. 07 December 2019.
  • California Gull (adult). Marion County, Iowa. 08 December 2019.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). New Hanover County, North Carolina. 08 December 2019.
    • Likely a returning bird for the 4th consecutive winter.
  • Common Gull (adult). Pictou County, Nova Scotia. 08 December 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Niagara County, New York. 18 December 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult & 2nd cycle). Middlesex County, Ontario. 13 December 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Walla Walla County, Washington. 16 December 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Benton County, Washington. 21 December 2019.
  • Laughing Gull (1st cycle). San Mateo County, California. 21 December 2019.
  • Mew Gull (2nd cycle). Dona Ana County, New Mexico. 22 December 2019.
  • California Gull (adult). Middlesex County, New Jersey. 23 December 2019.
  • California Gull (1st cycle). Cameron County, Texas. 25 December 2019.
  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Riverside County, California. 30 December 2019.
  • Heermann's Gull (1st cycle). Palm Beach County, Florida. 31 December 2019.
    • Continuing individual wintering on FL Atlantic coast.

  1. The adult Ross's found on Lake Washington in Seattle appeared to be ill with droopy wings and a lazy gait. After two hours of observation birders witnessed a Bald Eagle fly in and effortlessly take the gull. It was carried to a nearby tree and consumed. Not unlike the story of the adult Ross's Gull from San Mateo County, California a few years ago, these sightings reinforce the belief that ROGUs which make it this far south do not fare well. 
  2. Similar to last winter, southern Ontario hosted 3-4 Slaty-backed Gulls in December. 
  3. Of interest is the 10,000 California Gulls reported in Salt Lake County, Utah in early December. 

03 January 2020

December 2019 Quiz

Age: It appears this is a large four-year gull, and judging by the plumage aspect, we can estimate it is in its 3rd plumage cycle. The adult-like, gray, inner primaries, with broad white tips are sufficient enough to steer us away from 2nd cycle, but the black secondary centers, broad tail band, marked primary coverts and brown cast to the wing coverts assure us this isn't an adult.

Identification: To begin identifying this gull, we should ask which large four-year gull has a pale eye at this age, relatively paler gray upperparts and a proportionately-sized bill. California Gull is ruled out by the pale eye. Ring-billed - a 3 year gull -  may come to mind but this is a larger and more broad-winged bird. Furthermore, 2nd cycle Ring-billeds never show tailbands this wide. Our December bird is a fairly typical Herring Gull, except perhaps for the lack of white in the outer primaries. At this age, Herrings usually show a mirror (or two) on the outer wing, but on rare occasion may not. It is worth mentioning that gray feathers mixed with brown pigments almost always make sub-adults appear darker than typical adults. Add to this an already underexposed image and the result is a bird that appears darker than what we normally associate with American Herring Gull.

Chicago. November.