Age: The largely dark brown wing coverts and substantial tail-band suggest a 1st cycle gull.
Identification: This is a hooded species with obvious eye-crescents. The dark-gray mantle and scapular feathers eliminate paler species such as Bonaparte's, Little and Sabine's Gull. Although not discernable from this single photo, the bill and body size should aid in the elimination process when observed in the field. The only reasonable choices for this 1st cycle gull are Franklin's and Laughing.
This month's quiz bird is a rather typical 1st winter Laughing Gull, photographed in Volusia County, Florida. January.
For comparison, consider this 1st cycle Franklin's Gull. Illinois. September.
First cycle Franklin's show a silvery gray wash across the greater coverts - and perhaps diagnostic - white outer edges to the outermost rectrices. Overall, this species will show whiter underparts and hindeck earlier in the season than Laughing. Finally, Franklin's will often show a much more demarcated semi-hood and wider eye crescents than similar-age Laughing Gulls.