01 September 2021

August 2021 Quiz


December. Illinois.

Age: Our quiz bird in the center of the frame appears to be an adult black-backed species, but the extensive black on the bill is excessive for an adult. An open wing may reveal subadult features on the plumage. The smaller white apicals are also atypical of adults. Such birds are best referred to as "adult type", which implies some ambiguity in age. 

Identification: Adult black-backed species can be sorted into two groups: those with yellow legs and those with pink legs. This individual appears to have intermediate leg color -- not the obvious pink seen on the two Herrings in the foreground, but also not the mustard-yellow seen on the Ring-billeds in the background. The legs do, however, have a dull yellow cast to them, which is not uncommon in adult type Lesser Black-backed Gulls. The bill pattern too is found on a good number of adult type Lessers. The size and structure seem to fit that species, and the clear iris and finer head streaking also support Lesser. It's upright posture and lowered wings give the body a rotund shape, almost recalling Slaty-backed Gull, and from a distance, such a wide tertial crescent may excite observers. But the attenuated look to the wings, leg color and extensive black on the bill all combine to make our August Quiz a relatively straightforward Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Monthly Notables August 2021


  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Monmouth County, New Jersey. 05 August 2021.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Valdez-Cordova County, Alaska. 06 August 2021.
  • Short-billed Gull (adult). Churchill & Manitoba County, Manitoba. 04 August 2021.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). Monterey County, California. 07 August 2021.
  • Glaucous Gull (2nd cycle). New Haven County, Connecticut. 07 August 2021.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Sitka, Alaska. 11 August 2021.
    • Presumed graellsii. p1-p5 renewed, p6 half grown, p7 missing, p8-p10 old; mirror on p9 & p10.
  • Short-billed Gull (adult). Calgary County, Alberta. 11 August 2021.
  • Heermann's Gull (3rd cycle). Duval County, Florida. 13 August 2021.
    • The same waif that has been on the Atlantic coast since August 2019. Now in 3rd basic plumage.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Meeker County, Minnesota. 14 August 2021.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (3rd cycle). Harrison County, Georgia. 14 August 2021.
  • Little Gull (2nd cycle). Washington County, Rhode Island. 14 August 2021.
  • Sabine's Gull (adult). Cook County, Illinois. 17 August 2021.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (3rd cycle). Banff County, Alberta. 17 August 2021.
  • Thayer's Gull (2nd cycle). Kenai Peninsula County, Alaska. 18 August 2021.
  • Little Gull (juvenile). Cochrane County, Ontario. 19 August 2021.
  • Laughing Gull (2 juveniles). Tompkins & Broome County, New York. 19 August 2021.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Fairfax County, Virginia. 17 August 2021.
    • 3rd county record.
  • Laughing Gull (juvenile). Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. 22 August 2021.
  • Sabine's Gull (2nd cycle type). Fremont County, Wyoming. 22 August 2021.
  • Common Gull (2nd cycle). Cape Breton County, Nova Scotia. 23 August 2021.
    • Nominate canus.
  • Sabine's Gull (2nd cycle type). Fairfax County, Virginia. 25 August 2021.
  • Little Gull (2nd cycle). Power County, Idaho. 26 August 2021.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Power County, Idaho. 26 August 2021.
  • Laughing Gull (2nd cycle). La Haute-Cote-Nord County, Quebec. 26 August 2021.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Anchorage County, Alaska. 26 August 2021.
  • Sabine's Gull (adult). Dare County, North Carolina. 28 August 2021.
  • Glaucous Gull (2nd cycle). Ketchikan Gateway County, Alaska. 29 August 2021.
  • Sabine's Gull (adult type). Escambia County, Florida. 30 August 2021.

01 August 2021

Monthly Notables July 2021


  • Iceland Gull (2nd cycle). Monroe County, New York. 01 July 2021.
  • Laughing Gull (2nd cycle). Monroe County, Michigan. 02 July 2021.
  • Glaucous Gull (2nd cycle). Monmouth County, New Jersey. 03 July 2021.
  • Black-tailed Gull (adult type). Lake & Peninsula County, Alaska. 03 July 2021.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). Marin County, California. 05 July 2021.
  • Franklin's Gull (2nd cycle). Sonoma County, California. 05 July 2021.
  • Franklin's Gull (2nd cycle). Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. 06 July 2021.
  • Little Gull (2nd cycle type - 2). Marinette County, Wisconsin. 06 July 2021.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). Muskingum County, Ohio. 08 July 2021.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Kenai Peninsula County, Alaska. 10 July 2021.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Keith County, Nebraska. 10 July 2021.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Norfolk County, Ontario. 11 July 2021.
  • Heermann's Gull (juvenile). Ketchikan Gateway County, Alaska. 16 July 2021.
    • 5th for Ketchikan. 
  • Sabine's Gull (adult). Lyon County, Nevada. 19 July 2021.
  • Little Gull (adult). Chittenden County, Vermont. 22 July 2021.
  • Black-headed Gull (2nd cycle). Ocean County, New Jersey. 26 July 2021.
  • Common Gull (adult). Cape Race, Newfoundland. 26 July 2021.
  • Short-billed Gull (juvenile). Clatsop County, Oregon. 26 July 2021.
    • Likely a new early "fall" arrival record for this age group.


  1. Ring-billed Gulls nested in Jackson County, Colorado this season. Nicholas Komar reported more than 40 half grown chicks on 03 July, 2021 at Walden Reservoir, marking the first confirmed breeding in the state since 1900.
  2. 27 Lesser Black-backed Gulls reported by Peter Paul in Queens County, New York should be a high count for the county (07 July 2021). Summering Lessers are more common farther east on Long Island, such as in Nassau County. 
  3. 13 Little Gulls were reported in a "colony" in Churchill, Manitoba by Ashley Westphal on 22 July 2021.

July 2021 Quiz


January. Washington.

Age: The pointed primary tips, neatly patterned wing coverts and tertials, and overall appearance suggest a 1st cycle gull. The warm mottling on the breast and underparts are also typical of a 1st cycle.

Identification: This appears to be a member of the white-headed gulls (as opposed to the smaller tern-like or hooded species). The bill is strikingly petite and "short". At first glance it would seem this is an Iceland Gull due to the pale primary edges, icy-gray post-juvenile scapulars and overall frosty appearance to the upperparts. But we'd be pressed to find a 1st cycle Iceland with this much solid gray on the back in January. This is a 1st cycle Short-billed Gull (L brachyrhynchus), formerly known as Mew Gull in North America. Individuals with this plumage aspect are sometimes described as "mini Thayer's", and overall the plumage patterns are similar. In the field -- which can't be appreciated here -- the diminutive size of this species would be quite obvious. 

01 July 2021

Monthly Notables June 2021


  • Iceland Gull (2nd cycle type). Niagara County, New York. 01 June 2021.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (5 - 2nd cycle types). Keith County, Nebraska. 01 June 2021.
  • Ross's Gull (1st cycle). Nome County, Alaska. 03 June 2021.
    • Nome River mouth. A one-year old in 1st alternate plumage.
  • Glaucous-winged Gull (adult type). Harney County, Oregon. 03 June 2021.
  • Black-headed Gull (1st cycle). Aleutians West County, Alaska. 03 June 2021.
  • Black-headed Gull (1st cycle). Monmouth County, New Jersey. 04 June 2021.
  • Heermann's Gull (3rd cycle). Cape May County, New Jersey. 04 June 2021.
    • 1st State Record continuing until at least this date.
  • Ross's Gull (1st cycle). Nome County, Alaska. 06 June 2021.
    • Gambell Seawatch. A different one-year old than the Nome bird.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Inyo County, California. 07 June 2021.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Imperial County, California. 08 June 2021.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult type). Anchorage County, Alaska. 09 June 2021.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Cape May County, New Jersey. 09 June 2021.
  • Laughing Gull (adult type). Bruce County, Ontario. 09 June 2021.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Comox-Stathcona District, British Columbia. 10 June 2021.
  • Glaucous Gull (2nd cycle). Nassau County, New York. 15 June 2021.
  • Laughing Gull (2nd cycle). San Juan County, Utah. 16 June 2021.
  • Heermann's Gull (3rd cycle). Chatham County, Georgia. 18 June 2021.
    • Back after a three month hiatus.
  • California Gull (2nd cycle). Sangamon County, Illinois. 19 June 2021.
  • California Gull (4th cycle type). Erie County, Pennsylvania. 20 June 2021.
  • Laughing Gull (1st cycle/1st alternate). Becker County, Minnesota. 20 June 2021.
  • Heermann's Gull (3rd cycle). Beaufort County, South Carolina: 21 June 2021.
    • 1st STATE RECORD. The same waif that has made the Atlantic coast its home since August 2019.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (5 - 2nd/3rd cycle types). Portage la Prairie Area County, Manitoba. 23 June 2021.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult type). North Slope County, Alaska. 24 June 2021.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (2nd cycle). Los Angeles County, California. 26 June 2021.
  • Sabine's Gull (2nd cycle type). Nueces County, Texas. 29 June 2021.


1. The 62nd Supplement to the AOS Checklist now treats what was formerly Mew Gull in North America as a separate species from the Old World taxa. Short-billed Gull is the new name for Larus brachyrhynchus. With this split, the ABA Checklist will have a total of 31 gull species. 

2. "The" Heermann's Gull of Florida-fame, subsequently found in Georgia, then Virginia, then Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Jersey, made its way back south to Georgia and then South Carolina this month. By my count, this bird has provided a total of 5 new "state firsts" in 2021, and counting. 

3. Coverage by several parties in the Aleutians yielded several Red-legged Kittiwake sightings this month. Up to 20 individuals were found between Aleutians East and Aleutians West County, Alaska throughout June, all presumably adult types. These are among the highest counts for the species this far south and east in some years. 

June 2021 Quiz


Florida. January.

Age: Whichever species this is, we can be sure it's a subadult based on the black centers to the secondaries and dark smudging on the underside of the primary coverts.

Identification: This is a hooded gull with thick white eye crescents and a relatively stout bill. The broad white trailing edge and dark wingtip readily eliminate smaller species such as Bonaparte's and Black-headed (so-called "masked gulls" which have mostly gray along the trailing edge of the secondaries).
The only expected hooded gulls in North America are Franklin's and Laughing. One may assume this is a Laughing Gull based on the time of year and location, but taking a closer look, we can make the case for Franklin's for the following reasons: The eye crescents are rather wide and the hood is sharply demarcated with a clean, white neck. And more importantly, the active molt in the primaries is expected in Franklin's at this time of year (note the 3 new innermost primaries). Franklin's undergoes two complete molts per annual cycle. During the northern winter, this species is typically found in South America where it undergoes a complete prealternate molt, replacing body and flight feathers at once. This individual appears to be doing just that, presumably via its 1st prealternate molt.

A few Franklin's Gulls can be found lingering in North America in the boreal winter, primarily in the far south. Those that winter north of the equator appear to average less extensive prealternate molts than their southern counterparts. Here is this individual with several Laughing Gulls. 

Franklin's Gull (center) typically shows a semi-hood if not sporting a complete hood. It averages a smaller body and bill than Laughing Gull. Note how the eye crescents "pop" on the darker head.

30 June 2021

Short-billed Gull - Larus brachyrhynchus

Big news! The Mew Gulls have been split into two species, Larus canus and Larus brachyrhynchus. The proposal, put forth by Pamela C. Rasmussen back in November of 2020, can be found here. Data that bolstered the split comes from a combination of genetic, morphological and vocal differences, in addition to well-established geographic isolation of brachyrhynchus

In the 62nd Supplement to the AOS Check-list of North American Birds, Short-billed Gull is the name "resurrected" for the American taxon, Larus brachyrhynchus (formerly known as Mew Gull to North American observers).

The canus group now includes Old World taxa, Common Gull (nominate L.c. canus) and Kamchatka Gull (L.c. kamtschatschensis). Nominate is rare to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Quebec, and casual south of here to NY. Beside being very rare in Alaska, Kamchatka is casual, but increasing, in the Northeast from Atlantic Canada, down to New England. The supplement makes no mention of the less known race, heinei, or Russian Common Gull (L.c heinei), as it is known in Europe and Asia. There are no known reports of heinei in North America, possibly due to an observer bias. Field identification of all four forms -- with helpful notes on vocalizations -- can be found in Adriaens & Gibbins (2016).

The addition of Short-billed Gull puts the number of gull species on the ABA Checklist at 31. 

1st cycle Short-billed Gull (Larus brachyrhynchus) with adult California Gull.
Washington. January. photo: Amar Ayyash.

1st cycle Common Gull (Larus c. canus) with 1st cycle Ring-billed Gull.
New York. December. photo: Andrew Baksh.

1st cycle Kamchatka Gull (Larus c. kamtschatschensis) with adult Vega Gull.
Japan. December. photo: Amar Ayyash