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.

03 December 2019

Monthly Notables November 2019


  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). Monroe County, Florida. 01 November 2019.
  • Black-tailed Gull (adult). San Francisco County, California. 01 November 2019.
    • Continuing from October 2019 on South Farallon Islands.
  • California Gull (2nd cycle). St. Louis County, Minnesota. 03 November 2019.
  • Sabine's Gull (juvenile). Vaudreuil-Soulanges County, Quebec. 05 November 2019.
  • Little Gull (adult). Macon County, Illinois. 06 November 2019.
  • Laughing Gull (1st cycle). Marion County, Indiana. 06 November 2019.
  • California Gull (adult). Galveston County, Texas. 06 November 2019.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (adult). Taylor County, Texas. 08 November 2019.
    • P9 half grown; P10 just emerging beyond p-coverts.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (adult). Pubelo County, Colorado. 08 November 2019.
    • Believed to be a returning individual for the 26th consecutive winter.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (juvenile). Larimer County, Colorado. 09 November 2019.
  • Little Gull (adult). Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. 10 November 2019.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (adult). Clark County, Nevada. 10 November 2019.
  • Kamchatka Gull (adult). Beauce-Sartigan County, Quebec. 04 November 2019.
    • 4th Province Record. This follows a 3rd province record from August 2019.
  • Little Gull (adult). Macon County, Illinois. 06 November 2019.
  • California Gull (adult). Galveston County, Texas. 08 November 2019.
  • Ivory Gull (adult). East Kootenay District, British Columbia. 10 November 2019.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (juvenile). Cedar County, Nebraska. 16 November 2019.
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). Skagit County, Washington. 08 November 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Brant County, Ontario. 19 November 2019.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Cape May County, New Jersey. 19 November 2019.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). King County, Washington. 19 November 2019.
  • Heermann's Gull (1st cycle). Miami-Dade County, Florida. 19 November 2019.
    • 1st County Record. Likely the same individual from Brevard County.
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). Norfolk County, Massachusetts. 22 November 2019.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Bristol County, Massachusetts. 22 November 2019.
    • Apparent L.c. brachyrhynchus. 1st County Record.
  • Western Gull (3rd cycle). Nueces County, Texas. 22 November 2019.
    • Suspected to be the same individual found in Port Aransas last October - then a 2nd cycle. 6th State Record, pending acceptance. 
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle). Duval County, Florida. 23 November 2019.

November 2020 Quiz

Age: To age this apparent, large, four-year gull, note the pointed tips as well as dark subterminal diamonds to the innermost primaries (1st generation). The primary coverts are nicely ornamented with pale-edged tips. The plumage is crisp and well-patterned with largely dark wing linings. We can safely label our subject a 1st cycle.

Identification: For identification, we will begin by focusing on the bill. This individual has an enormously stout bill which nicely complements a large blocky head. The tail has a thin, weakly patterned tailband with contrasting uppertail coverts. The body is barrel-shaped and appears heavy. The upperparts are peppered black-and-white with some checkering. Important, also, is to make out the overall white ground color to the entire plumage - which is very conspicuous throughout the body. Piecing together a bird this checkered, with such broad wings shouldn't be problematic. Our November gull is a 1st cycle Great Black-backed Gull.

23 people submitted answers this month and all identified this bird correctly!! Thanks for the comments!

March; Lake County, Indiana.