01 December 2018

November 2018 Quiz

Age: We can be sure this individual is not sporting definitive adult plumage. The heavily marked tail, ink spots on the upper side of the secondaries (right wing), black-marked primary coverts, and smoky brown pigment on the under wing coverts along the leading edge (left wing), all make this a relatively straight forward bird to age. It has adult like gray secondaries and primaries, with broad white tips, ruling out a 2nd cycle. This individual would best be aged as a 3rd cycle type if we can agree it's a large, four-year gull.

Identification: The gray upperparts don't appear dark enough for any black-backed species. Which gray-backed gull has pale eyes and a medium size bill? The black subterminal tip to the bill superficially resembles Ring-billed Gull, but our bird has more of a menacing look with a barrel chested-body and broader wings. Of course if we were observing this bird in real life, we'd immediately get a sense for size and structure, but we don't have that information in a single snapshot. However, if it were a Ring-billed, it would be a 2nd cycle as this is a 3 year gull. The tail band is too wide for Ring-billed with black coming up more than half the length of several rectrices. Here's a typical tail band on a 2nd cycle Ring-billed Gull. It helps to zoom in on what look like pink feet (Ring-billed is yellow-footed).

Our November Quiz bird is a 3rd cycle Herring Gull, a species we should be comfortably familiar with anywhere in North America. Ottawa County, Michigan. December.