31 March 2017

March 2017 Quiz

Age: An apparent 1st cycle gull with checkered upperparts and juvenile-like flight feathers.

Identification: The pale uppertail coverts with thin, black, tailband immediately point away from Herring Gull (and most other North American large gulls). The secondaries and outer primaries are strikingly dark, a pattern that's expected on both Lesser and Great Black-backed Gull. The wing is broad, and the overall peppered aspect to the wing coverts looks better for Great Black-backed. Structurally, the bill - peeking under the left wing - and the long thick legs add up to a GBBG.

Here's a better look at the March 2017 quiz bird.

1st cycle Great Black-backed Gull. Whiting, Indiana. March.

22 March 2017

Lake County Iceland Gulls - Last Day of Winter 2017

On Sunday, Greg Neise, Adam Sell and I worked the large gulls at North Point Marina for nearly 6 hours. Here's a collection of some of the Kumlien's & Thayer's Iceland Gulls we found.

Lake County, Illinois. Sunday, 19 March 2017.

The contrasting gray slivers on the outer webs of p8-p9 are hardly noticeably with brighter light. See next image.

No doubt this bird wouldn't get a second look in nominate glaucoides' winter range.

At this angle, the lighting projects a Kumlien's left wing and a Thayer's right wing. Perhaps more important than any other factor when identifying adults in this complex, is lighting!

The open bill gives this individual a very large-headed appearance. If it was summer in Anchorage, it would be identified as a Cook Inlet Gull.

13 March 2017

First Cycle Herring with Band-tail

The title of the post says it all. Here's another 1st cycle Herring with white base color to the uppertail coverts and a thinner, more pronounced, tail band than a typical smithsonianus.

Lake County, Illinois. 10 March 2017.

What would this bird be called in Japan?

With a vegae/argentatus tail band, the undertail coverts are sparsely patterned with thin markings. 

Not surprising, this isn't a chocolate-brown Smith. Like many vegae, it shows silvery 2nd generation scapulars with a faint pattern to the wing coverts.

A different view of the uppertail (sorry for the chopped off wing)...

No known-origin American Herring has revealed such a 1st basic tail pattern, yet!

Kenosha Iceland Gulls

Some Thayer's and Kumlien's from late last week.
10 March 2017. Kenosha County, Wisconsin.

01 March 2017

Monthly Notables February 2017

  • Ross's Gull (1st cycle). Franklin County, New York. 01 February 2017.
    • Continued from January. Last seen 02 February 2017. An unknown observer reported seeing the bird on Simon Pond on 23 February 2017.
  • Ivory Gull (1st cycle). Skagway-Hoonah-Angoon County, Alaska. 01 February 2017.
  • Kumlien's Gull (1st cycle). Skagway-Hoonah-Angoon County, Alaska. 03 February 2017.
  • Thayer's Gull (adult). Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia. 04 February 2017.
  • Kamchatka Gull (adult). Digby County, Nova Scotia. 04 February 2017.
    • Possibly a returning bird from last winter.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Linconln County, Oregon. 04 February 2017.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Grays Harbor County, Washington. 04 February 2017.
  • Ross's Gull (adult). Washington County, Rhode Island. 04 February 2017.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Erie County, Pennsylvania. 05 February 2017.
    • Continuing from late January 2017.
  • Kumlien's Gull (1st cycle). Lincoln County, Oregon. 06 February 2017.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult type). Nanaimo County, British Columbia. 07 February 2017.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. 13 February 2017.
  • Laughing Gull (1st cycle). San Mateo County, California. 18 February 2017.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). San Mateo County, California. 19 February 2017.
  • Common Gull (adult). Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. 20 February 2017.
  • Black-tailed Gull (1st cycle). Monterey County, California. 22 February 2017.
    • January bird. Relocated after going missing on 18 January 2017.
  • Vega Gull (adult). Volusia County, Florida. 23 February 2017.
    • 3rd occurrence for Daytona Beach Shores.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult & 2nd cycle). San Mateo County, California. 25 February 2017.
  • Black-tailed Gull (1st cycle). San Mateo County, California. 25 February 2017.
    • Photos revealed this to be the same individual first found last month some 80 miles to the south in Monterey County.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). San Mateo County, California. 25 February 2017.
    • A first cycle found here a few days later on 27 February 2017.
  • Common Gull (adult). Essex County, Massachusetts. 25 February 2017.
    • Sporting a metal band of its right leg, this individual was banded in Iceland in 2013. Some 2500 miles from its banding location, #581641 was still being seen at King's Beach as of 28 February 2017. 


  • On 20 February 2017, Donna Martin recorded an unexpected video of an adult Kumlien's Gull attempting to woo an adult Herring Gull. The Kumlien's was performing obvious courtship behaviors (head tossing, calling with mock-regurgitation). There are no known records of Herring and Iceland Gull hybridizing, and this pre-breeding behavior appears to be the first of its kind to be documented.
  • San Mateo County, California lived up to its reputation of being a winter gull magnet. On 25 February 2017, 14 species were recorded with highlights being 2 Slaty-backed Gulls and the 1st cycle Black-tailed Gull that was first found in Monterey County last month. The county now has a whopping 22 gull species to boast about, not counting Vega Herring. 
  • Worthy of mention in the February notes is the banded adult Common Gull from Essex County, Massachusetts (see above). This report confirms what many of us already suspect - a presence of gulls from the far North Atlantic wintering in North America.  

February 2017 Quiz

This month's quiz gives us a break from large gulls with a potpourri of smaller larids. Most of the birds in this photo show obvious signs of wear and active molt, hinting it may be the summer season in the northern hemisphere.

The 2 paler gulls in the center with yellow bills and blocky heads have a short-legged appearance. These are safely identified as 1st summer Black-legged Kittiwakes, with much of the upperparts and body feathers already renewed via the first prealternate molt. The individual in the front shows a worn, brownish outer primary, and black edging on the visible rectrices (retained juvenile feathers).

The darker, long-legged birds surrounding the kittiwakes all look like standard Laughing Gulls. There are at least 2 first summer LAGUs in the photo - can you point them out? The red-billed bird on the left with the complete hood is likely a definitive adult. The age of the others is questionable without an open wing. With this many Laughing Gulls in the flock, the photo must have been taken along the Atlantic seaboard or the Gulf Coast.

What about the bird in the back on the far left stretching its wing? It's a hooded species with a pointy black bill and a white "flash" to the outer primaries. The brown marks on the upperwing coverts and wrist also identify this as a 1st summer gull - a Bonaparte's now in its 2nd prebasic molt. If you zoom in on the photo, you'll notice a molt gap at the mid-primaries, separating the newer 2nd basic inner primaries from the retained juvenile (1st basic) primaries.

Barnstable County, Massachusetts. July.

February Iceland Gull Miscellany

The warmest February on record for our region, the month was somewhat uneventful with an adult Slaty-backed being the only rarity highlight (Milwaukee County, WI). Three putative Great Lakes Gulls (2 adults and a 3rd cycle type) continued on the Calumet River (Cook County, IL) this season.

Our 16th Annual IOS Gull Frolic saw temperatures in the low 50s, with virtually no ice by early morning. Despite the mild temperatures, we did observe 3-4 Thayer's and 1-2 Kumlien's Gulls.

Continuing with the trend seen in November-January, very few 1st cycle "winter gulls" have been reported this season.

Below is a collection of Iceland Gulls seen around Lake Michigan throughout the month of February.

Kumlien's Iceland Gull. Lake County, IL 11 Feb 2017. Photo 1 of 3.

Photo 2 of 3.

Photo 3 of 3.

Thayer's Iceland Gull. Milwaukee County, WI. 20 Feb 2017. Photo 1 of 3.

Photo 2 of 3.

Photo 3 of 3.

Thayer's Iceland Gull. Milwaukee County, WI. 20 Feb 2017. Photo 1 of 3.

Photo 2 of 3.

Photo 3 of 3.

2nd Cycle Thayer's Iceland Gull. Milwaukee County, WI. 20 Feb 2017. Photo 1 of 3.

Photo 2 of 3.

Photo 3 of 3.

1st Cycle Thayer's Iceland Gull. Milwaukee County, WI. 20 Feb 2017. Photo 1 of 2.

1st Cycle Thayer's Iceland Gull. Milwaukee County, WI. 20 Feb 2017. Photo 2 of 2.

Thayer's Iceland Gull. Lake County, IL. 10 Feb 2017. Photo 1 of 4.

Photo 2 of 4.

Photo 3 of 4.

Photo 4 of 4.

Kumlien's Iceland Gull. LaPorte County, IN 04 Feb 2017. Photo 1 of 2.

Photo 2 of 2.