Let's start with this putative American Herring x Glaucous Gull (I think I'll start calling these Not-Nelson's until we can decide on a more fitting colloquial name - a name that does this hybrid some historical justice).
Volusia County, Florida. 29 January 2017.
|This was a beefy bird, showing a short wing projection and strong bill.|
Unlike the many bleached and faded 1st cycle HERGs we see down there, this individual was genuinely pale with white-winger influence.
Next up, a 1st cycle with Vega-like features:
|Frosty and checkered wing coverts with pale vent and barred undertail coverts. This was a sexy bird that didn't surprise when it opened its wings.|
Why so many of these strongly checkered, frosty and often pale-looking Herrings, in east-central Florida is beyond me. A good number of these birds (perhaps 1/3) show remarkably similar tail patterns to vegae/argentatus. For someone who sees thousands of Herrings in the Lake Michigan region, I can't say I've seen more than 3-4 similar to this (early fall birds). On the other hand, I can easily find a handful under a good day's work when I'm down in FL. Michael and I both agree there is an interesting subgroup here that needs more attention (more on this later). Keep in mind there are Vega and European Herring records that have been vetted from this same county. With a little more observer effort and field work, we will eventually do 1 of 3 things:
1) Find some known-origin birds that can help pad our conjectures.
2) Widen our current limits for what we call smithsonianus.
3) Twiddle our thumbs and enrage certain dastards from Buffalo, New York. Right.
Some lighter "Stuff"
|Typical 1st cycle Smiths with similar-aged Lesser. Brevard County Landfill. 26 January 2017.|
Glaucous is always nice, especially in Florida. Volusia County. 28 January 2017.
A photo opportunity that's tough to come by in North America in January - both FRGU and LAGU:
|There were more adult Laughings sporting alternate hoods this year than any January I could remember. This made our search for the Franklin's more fun.|
|Adult Lesser still growing out p10 in late January - not an uncommon p-molt pattern for adults down here in the winter.|
|Bill and body size comparable to this 3rd cycle type Herring.|
|1st cycle Lesser with an odd-white lower scapular (2nd generation?).|
|"Chocolate" 1st cycle Smith with similar-aged Great.|
Herrings and a Great Black-backed with a honkin' bill. In the big scheme of things, bill size does matter. Mouth size, not so much.