04 March 2016

2nd Cycle Herring & Thayer's

For most birders Herring Gull is the "benchmark" large gull species that we first begin to familiarize ourselves with (or at least attempt to get familiar with). For some, looking through flocks of Herring Gulls can be agonizing (whether it be a lack of excitement or being overwhelmed by an array of plumages). For others, the exercise of looking through a flock of Herrings is the only way to ensure they won't miss a rarity. And then you have some observers (myself included) that look through these variable beasts for sheer recreation. In any case, knowing Herring Gull is indispensable.

Ultimately, many of our identifications are reinforced by comparisons - comparisons among species in the field. These comparisons solidify for us the differences between Species A, Species B and so on and so forth. 

Consider these two below:

The bird on the left is a fairly typical 2nd cycle Herring Gull. To the experienced birder that has looked through enough Herrings, the bird on the right is different. It has softer brown primaries with faint pale edges. The underside to the left wing is noticeably pale. The wing coverts and tertials have an overall icy-marbling appearance. The head is rounded, and the bill - which has retained smudges of black along the cutting edge - is thinner towards its base. 

The bird on the right is a fairly typical 2nd cycle Thayer's Gull. Here's this beauty in flight:

Thayer's Gull (2nd Cycle). Will County, Illinois. 15 February 2016.

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