01 June 2021

Monthly Notables May 2021

Sightings:

  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Keweenaw County, Michigan. 01 May 2021.
  • California Gull (adult). Johnson County, Iowa. 02 May 2021.
  • Thayer's Gull (1st cycle). Lewis and Clark County, Montana. 03 May 2021.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). San Francisco County, California. 05 May 2021.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (3rd cycle). Grays Harbor County, Washington. 06 May 2021.
  • Kumlien's Gull (1st cycle). Cook County, Illinois. 08 May 2021.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Norfolk County, Ontario. 08 May 2021.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult type). Central Kootenay District, B.C. 08 May 2021.
  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Warren County, Ohio. 10 May 2021.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Alameda County, California. 11 May 2021.
  • Franklin's Gull (3; 10 adults). Lincoln County, Oregon. 11 May 2021.
    • Likely a high count for coastal Oregon.
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle). Marin County, California. 11 May 2021.
  • Kumlien's Gull (1st cycle). Bucks County, Pennsylvania. 11 May 2021.
  • Heermann's Gull (3rd cycle). Virginia Beach County, Virginia. 11 May 2021.*
    • 2nd State Record. P1 dropped and thus the 3rd prebasic molt has commenced.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). Valdez-Cordova County, Alaska. 12 May 2021.
    • Apparent 7th State Record.
  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Santa Cruz County, California. 13 May 2021.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Durham County, Ontario. 13 May 2021.
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). Dare County, North Carolina. 15 May 2021.
  • Ivory Gull (adult). Nome County, Alaska. 20 May 2021.
  • Little Gull (adult). Kings County, California. 22 May 2021.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Nome County, Alaska. 24 May 2021.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Anchorage County, Alaska. 25 May 2021.
  • Heermann's Gull (3rd cycle). Bristol County, Massachusetts. 27 May 2021. 
    • 1ST STATE RECORD. 3rd generation p1 growing in, p2-p3 dropped.
  • Heermann's Gull (3rd cycle). Newport County, Rhode Island. 27 May 2021.
    • 1ST STATE RECORD. Same individual from VA & MA.
  • Thayer's Gull (1st cycle). San Diego County, California. 28 May 2021.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Skagway-Hoonah-Angoon County, Alaska. 29 May 2021.
    • 1st for Gustavus, Alaska.
  • Ivory Gull (2nd cycle). Nome County, Alaska. 29 May 2021.
  • Herrmann's Gull (3rd cycle). Cape May County, New Jersey. 30 May 2021.
    • 1ST STATE RECORD. Same individual from VA, MA, RI. 
    • 3rd generation p1 growing in, p2-p3 dropped.
  • Black-headed Gull (2nd cycle). Cape May County, New Jersey. 30 May 2021.
    • Continuing.

Notes:

* The Heermann's Gull that excited several Northeast Atlantic states this month yielded three 1st state records (MA, RI, NJ) and a 2nd state record (VA) all within 20 days. It is believed this is the same Heermann's first found in Palm Beach County, Florida as a juvenile in August 2019. Age, molt and plumage patterns work out perfectly, as well as its sporadic wanderings. This bird also produced a 1st state record in Georgia back in February-March of 2021. It was last seen in Volusia County, Florida on 23 March 2021 before being spotted in Virginia Beach this month. It's obvious this bird has a faulty compass and is likely to turn up anywhere!


May 2021 Quiz

 

Wisconsin. July. 

Age: Gull identification and aging go hand in hand, with the former often dependent on the latter. As we work on identifying a gull, we should be keen to place it in an age group based on plumage patterns. Age and plumage are discussed below.

Identification: The gray-backed birds on the left and right have slender pinkish-yellow bills with defined black rings. The spotted neck markings and finer streaking on the crown, as well darkish eyes safely relegate them to Ring-billed Gull (2nd cycles). Note the 1st generation outer primaries that are holding on (brown), which is expected at this time of year, with new incoming 2nd generation primaries growing in (black with white apical spots). These one-year old Ring-billeds are starting to show yellowish legs, but it is difficult to appreciate this field mark due to both lighting and a slight delay in bare part color maturation.  

The individual in the center is a black-backed species. It's relatively compact, but the solid dark brown upperparts, slender vent region behind the legs and parallel-edged dark bill all look great for Lesser Black-backed Gull. By direct comparison to the Ring-billeds, it is a notably small Lesser, likely a fm type. This too is a 2nd cycle, retaining old 1st generation primaries while molting the inner primaries.

It should be noted that these birds are undergoing their 2nd complete molt (known as the 2nd prebasic molt). Therefore, they are now 2nd cycle gulls.


01 May 2021

Monthly Notables April 2021

 Sightings:

  • Great Black-backed Gull (1st cycle). Saskatoon County, Saskatchewan. 01 April 2021.
  • Kamchatka Gull (adult). Fairfield County, Connecticut. 01 April 2021.
  • California Gull (adult). Dare County, North Carolina. 06 April 2021.
  • Glaucous-winged Gull (2nd cycle). Davis County, Utah. 06 April 2021.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Ventura County, California. 07 April 2021.
  • Vega Gull (adult). Santa Clara County, California. 08 April 2021.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (adult). Calgary County, Alberta. 10 April 2021.
    • Less than 20 accepted records for the province*.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Seneca County, New York. 13 April 2021.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (3rd cycle). Williams County, North Dakota. 13 April 2021.
  • Little Gull (adult). Utah County, Utah. 14 April 2021.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Tompkins County, New York. 19 April 2021.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Pierce County, Washington. 21 April 2021.
  • California Gull (adult type). Brant County, Ontario. 22 April 2021.
  • Thayer's Gull (1st cycle). Ventura County, California. 24 April 2021.
  • Western Gull (adult). Clark County, Nevada. 27 April 2021.
  • Laughing Gull (1st cycle). Jefferson County, Kansas. 28 April 2021.

Notes:
  1. The adult Black-legged Kittiwake in Calgary is noteworthy for several reasons: 1) There are less than 20 accepted records for the province, 2) It is the longest staying kittiwake for Alberta (with most birds gone within a couple of hours, 3) It has been lingering at a pond at a landfill and has been seen picking through and eating waste (James Fox pers comm.). I don't know of any previous reports of kittiwakes feeding, or attempting to feed, at landfills. 
  2. Nick Ramsey reported a putative Kelp x Herring hybrid from the Chandeleur Islands in St. Bernard Perish, Louisiana on 20 April 2021. Adult type. Upperparts intermediate, with a prominent bulbous-tipped bill, square p10 mirror and slight dusky wash on the primary coverts. In addition to this individual, another 3 suspected 1st/2nd cycle type hybrids may have been present, tending toward Herring. 

01 April 2021

April 2021 Quiz

 

Washington. January.

Age: All of these individuals appear to be adults. Given the amount of head streaking and the time of year, it is safe to assume they're in basic plumage (as opposed to "alternate" plumage).

IdentificationWe will ignore the farthest individual facing head on for the time being. This trio of yellow-legged species shows classic fieldmarks, and for the most part, identification is straightforward. Beginning with the palest individual -- the pale-eyed bird facing right -- we see a typical black ring around the bill tip and pale eye: Ring-billed Gull. Just in front of it is a dark-eyed bird with darker upperparts, slender bill tip with very light marks, and heavy smudging to the hindneck. The large p10 mirror (seen on the opposite wing just beyond the tail tip), and large boldly contrasting white tertial crescent make it a fairly standard Mew Gull. This species tends to show a proportionally larger eye on a smaller face. Farthest to the right, with straw-yellow legs is a larger birds with a dark eye, straight bill with signature black-to-red bill pattern near the tip. Everything about it suggests California Gull, with upperparts approximately the same as the Mew Gull. These 3 are our pale to medium gray yellow-legged white-headed gulls and should be learned well. Ring-billed and Mew are 3 cycle gulls, whereas California requires 4 cycles to acquire an adult-like plumage. 

Now, if you guessed Ring-billed for the farthest individual, then you guessed correctly. The upperparts do appear a smidgen paler than the California Gull and if the two were standing at the same angle this would be more noticeable. The wider breast and slightly longer leg appearance also "feels" better for Ring-billed over Mew. 

Monthly Notables March 2021

Sightings:

  • Heermann's Gull (2nd cycle). Chatham County, Georgia. 01 March 2021.
    Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Chautauqua County, New York. 01 March 2021.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (3rd cycle). Halifax County, Nova Scotia. 01 March 2021.
    • 3rd Province Record. 
  • Mew Gull (2nd cycle type). Washoe County, Nevada. 02 March 2021.
  • California Gull (subadult). Virginia Beach County, Virginia. 03 March 2021.
  • Mew Gull (1st cycle). Kings County, New York. 04 March 2021.
    • Continuing from previous month.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (3rd cycle). Kenai Peninsula Borough, Alaska.06 March 2021.
  • Bonaparte's Gull (1st cycle). Kenai Peninsula Borough, Alaska. 06 March 2021.
  • Laughing Gull (2nd cycle). Marin County, California. 02 March 2021.
  • Ross's Gull (adult). Bethel County, Alaska. 09 March 2021.
  • Heermann's Gull (2nd cycle). Volusia County, Florida. 09 March 2021.
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle). Union County, New Jersey. 10 March 2021.
  • Ivory Gull (40 individuals). Northern Peninsula-St. Anthony County, NL. 11 March 2021.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (1st cycle). Canadian County, Oklahoma. 12 March 2021.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Kodiak Island County, Alaska. 13 March 2021.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). Barton County, Nebraska. 14 March 2021.
  • California Gull (1st cycle). East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana. 14 March 2021.
  • California Gull (adult). Dare County, North Carolina. 18 March 2021.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (3rd cycle). Comox-Strathcona District, British Columbia. 18 March 2021.
  • Little Gull (1st cycle & adult). Gibson County, Indiana. 20 March 2021.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (adult). Larimer County, Colorado. 22 March 2021.
  • Vega Gull (adult). Santa Clara County, California. 22 March 2021.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (1st cycle). Comax, British Columbia. 22 March 2021.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (1st cycle). Saskatoon County, Saskatchewan. 25 March 2021.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Ashland County, Wisconsin. 26 March 2021.
  • California Gull (adult). New Haven County, Connecticut. 27 March 2021.

Notes:
  1. Earlier this month, Chuck Slusarczyk Jr reported a banded Ring-billed Gull from Cleveland that he submitted to the Bird Banding Lab in January of 2021. The USGS BBL confirmed with him that this individual was banded as a flightless chick in Toronto on 18 June 1992, putting it at 28 years 9 months old. According to the BBL, this sets a new longevity record for the species (the previous being 27 years, 6 months). Band number: 0785-64995.


31 March 2021

March 2021 Quiz

 

Washington. January.

Age: Adult.

Identification: The upperparts appear to be a medium gray, noticeably paler than Western Gull, but darker than Herring Gull. The upperside of the wingtip is short of being a true black, suggesting a hybrid between a species with a black wingtip and a paler wingtip. Glaucous-winged influence immediately comes to mind. The gray underside to the wingtip also suggests a four year hybrid. This is a large, thick-billed bird with dark eye and very smudgy head markings. Given the slightly darker gray upperparts, we can be confident this isn't a Herring x Glaucous-winged. Western x Glaucous-winged makes more sense and that's what it was identified as in the field. 

Another image below. The pinkish orbital ring and dark eye is typical of Glaucous-winged. The stocky, bulbous-tipped bill, smudgy head markings and medium gray upperparts are typical of this hybrid combination. Note the less than black primaries here.


01 March 2021

Monthly Notables February 2021

 Sightings:

  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Toronto County, Ontario. 01 February 2021.
  • Western Gull (adult). Davis County, Utah. 02 February 2021.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Lake County, Illinois. 03 February 2021.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Rankin County, Mississippi. 03 February 2021.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Benton County, Washington. 03 February 2021.
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). Del Norte County, California. 05 February 2021.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Suffolk County, New York. 06 February 2021.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Kodiak Island County, Alaska. 07 February 2021.
  • Kumlien's Gull (1st cycle). Monroe County, Indiana. 08 February 2021.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Alameda County, California. 11 February 2021.
  • California Gull (adult). Benton County, Tennessee. 12 February 2021.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). St. John's County, Newfoundland. 12 February 2021.
    • Believed to be a returning bird.
  • Heermann's Gull (2nd cycle). Chatham County, Georgia. 15 February 2021.
    • 1ST STATE RECORD. Believed to be "the" roaming FL bird.
  • California Gull (adult type). Middlesex County, New Jersey. 15 February 2021.
  • Vega Gull (adult). San Mateo County, California. 15 February 2021.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Labrador-Happy Valley-Goose Bay County, NL.
    • 3rd record for Labrador.
  • California Gull (adult). Sarasota County, Florida. 20 February 2021.
    • Believed to be a returning bird.
  • Vega Gull (adult). Santa Clara County, California. 21 February 2021.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). McHenry County, Illinois. 24 February 2021.
  • Black-headed Gull (1st cycle). Brevard County, Florida. 23 February 2021.
  • Kamchatka Gull (adult). Nantucket County, Massachusetts. 25 February 2021.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). Cook County, Illinois. 26 February 2021.