01 March 2017

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.