03 December 2019

Monthly Notables November 2019


  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). Monroe County, Florida. 01 November 2019.
  • Black-tailed Gull (adult). San Francisco County, California. 01 November 2019.
    • Continuing from October 2019 on South Farallon Islands.
  • California Gull (2nd cycle). St. Louis County, Minnesota. 03 November 2019.
  • Sabine's Gull (juvenile). Vaudreuil-Soulanges County, Quebec. 05 November 2019.
  • Little Gull (adult). Macon County, Illinois. 06 November 2019.
  • Laughing Gull (1st cycle). Marion County, Indiana. 06 November 2019.
  • California Gull (adult). Galveston County, Texas. 06 November 2019.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (adult). Taylor County, Texas. 08 November 2019.
    • P9 half grown; P10 just emerging beyond p-coverts.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (adult). Pubelo County, Colorado. 08 November 2019.
    • Believed to be a returning individual for the 26th consecutive winter.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (juvenile). Larimer County, Colorado. 09 November 2019.
  • Little Gull (adult). Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. 10 November 2019.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (adult). Clark County, Nevada. 10 November 2019.
  • Kamchatka Gull (adult). Beauce-Sartigan County, Quebec. 04 November 2019.
    • 4th Province Record. This follows a 3rd province record from August 2019.
  • Little Gull (adult). Macon County, Illinois. 06 November 2019.
  • California Gull (adult). Galveston County, Texas. 08 November 2019.
  • Ivory Gull (adult). East Kootenay District, British Columbia. 10 November 2019.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (juvenile). Cedar County, Nebraska. 16 November 2019.
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). Skagit County, Washington. 08 November 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Brant County, Ontario. 19 November 2019.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Cape May County, New Jersey. 19 November 2019.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). King County, Washington. 19 November 2019.
  • Heermann's Gull (1st cycle). Miami-Dade County, Florida. 19 November 2019.
    • 1st County Record. Likely the same individual from Brevard County.
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). Norfolk County, Massachusetts. 22 November 2019.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Bristol County, Massachusetts. 22 November 2019.
    • Apparent L.c. brachyrhynchus. 1st County Record.
  • Western Gull (3rd cycle). Nueces County, Texas. 22 November 2019.
    • Suspected to be the same individual found in Port Aransas last October - then a 2nd cycle. 6th State Record, pending acceptance. 
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle). Duval County, Florida. 23 November 2019.

November 2020 Quiz

Age: To age this apparent, large, four-year gull, note the pointed tips as well as dark subterminal diamonds to the innermost primaries (1st generation). The primary coverts are nicely ornamented with pale-edged tips. The plumage is crisp and well-patterned with largely dark wing linings. We can safely label our subject a 1st cycle.

Identification: For identification, we will begin by focusing on the bill. This individual has an enormously stout bill which nicely complements a large blocky head. The tail has a thin, weakly patterned tailband with contrasting uppertail coverts. The body is barrel-shaped and appears heavy. The upperparts are peppered black-and-white with some checkering. Important, also, is to make out the overall white ground color to the entire plumage - which is very conspicuous throughout the body. Piecing together a bird this checkered, with such broad wings shouldn't be problematic. Our November gull is a 1st cycle Great Black-backed Gull.

23 people submitted answers this month and all identified this bird correctly!! Thanks for the comments!

March; Lake County, Indiana.

02 November 2019

Monthly Notables October 2019

  • Black-headed Gull (adult type). Juneau County, Alaska. 02 October 2019.
  • Little Gull (juvenile). Cass County, Minnesota. 02 October 2019.
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. 04 October2019.
    • First County Record.
  • Laughing Gull (1st cycle). Montmagny County, Quebec. 05 October 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (3rd cycle type). Grays Harbor County, Washington. 05 October 2019.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (adult). Mobile County, Alabama. 06 October 2019.
  • Thayer's Gull (1st cycle). Fairbanks North Star County, Alaska. 07 October 2019.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (adult). Keith County, Nebraska. 08 October 2019.
  • Ivory Gull (adult). North Slope County, Alaska. 08 October 2019.
  • California Gull (adult). Berrien County, Michigan. 13 October 2019.
  • Sabine's Gull (juvenile). Aleutians West County, Alaska. 13 October 2019.
    • Late record for St. Paul Island, by 11 days.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Washington County, Colorado. 14 October 2019.
  • Black-tailed Gull (2nd/3rd cycle type). Jefferson County, Washington. 17 October 2019.
    • 8th(?) State Record, pending acceptance.
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle). Cook County, Illinois. 19 October 2019.
  • Laughing Gull (adult type). Cochrane District, Ontario. 19 October 2019.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (2nd cycle type). Fairfield County, Connecticut. 19 October 2019.
    • A Review List Species for CT.
  • Glaucous-winged Gull (1st cycle). Salt Lake County, Utah. 21 October 2019.
  • Black-tailed Gull (2nd cycle). La Haute-Cote-Nord County, Quebec. 21 October 2019.
    • An extraordinary plumage likely unrecorded in eastern North America. Most upperparts new (2nd basic?). P1-P5 new, 2nd basic. Outer primaries, secondaries and lesser upperwing coverts old.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Aleutians East County, Alaska. 21 October 2019.
  • Black-tailed Gull (adult). San Francisco County, California. 23 October 2019.
    • 1st Farallon Islands Record.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). San Diego County, California. 23 October 2019.
  • California Gull (2nd cycle). Northumberland County, Ontario. 23 October 2019.
  • Laughing Gull (adult type). Sudbury County, Ontario. 24 October 2019.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (juvenile). Marquette County, Michigan. 24 October 2019.
  • Heermann's Gull (1st cycle). Brevard County, Florida. 25 October 2019.
    • Continuing 1st county record first sighted in August 2019. 
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). North Okanagan District, B.C. 28 October 2019.
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle). San Francisco County, California. 30 October 2019.
  1. The highlight this month was the 3 reports of Black-tailed Gull. The species is always exceptionally rare in the ABA area, making October 2019 a very noteworthy event. Most interesting is the young bird photographed in Quebec with a flock of Ring-billed Gulls. This individual was about 4 months behind schedule in its 2nd prebasic molt. 

01 November 2019

October 2019 Quiz

Age: A rather standard 1st cycle, large gull, with what appears to be all juvenile upperparts.

Identification: Our October Quiz is a good example of why knowing date and location is indispensable information at times. This individual was photographed on the Kenai Peninsula along the Cook Inlet in late August. The most expected taxon here, at this time of year, consists of Herring x Glaucous-winged hybrids (so called Cook Inlet Gulls). Armed with this information, we must eliminate that mix first and foremost.

There are a number of features that we may attribute to Glaucous-winged, such as the plain and paler upper tail, pale edges to the primaries, high eye placement, grayish-brown plumage aspect and fine upperwing covert pattern. Less obvious are the Herring features, consisting of a paling bill base, notched scapular pattern, and perhaps most important, the darker primaries.

Two confusion taxa that may be considered away from this hybrid zone, and/or at a later time in the year, are Thayer's and Glaucous x Herring hybrid.

For Thayer's, we'd generally expect an all-dark bill without the wide base. Also, this individual appears big-bodied with higher than normal eye placement and a shorter primary projection (which admittedly may be due to posture or growing wings). Furthermore, the lesser and median coverts on this bird appear too "busy" with wavy markings that aren't as boldly patterned as is typically found in Thayer's.

As for Glaucous x Herring hybrids, that combination is difficult to rule out structurally. However, plumage aspect on that hybrid is often brighter with a frostier appearance, with more white-centered upperparts, as opposed to the grayish tones seen in some Glaucous-winged x Herrings. Again, location and time of year support a Cook Inlet Gull.

Anchor Point, Alaska. August.

01 October 2019

Monthly Notables September 2019

  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult type). Clallam County, Washington. 01 September 2019.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Bonner County, Idaho. 02 September 2019.
    • 1st County Record. Earliest State Fall Record. 
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult type). Kodiak Island County, Alaska. 02 September 2019.
  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Barton County, Kansas. 02 September 2019.
  • Glaucous Gull (2nd cycle). Racine County, Wisconsin. 03 September 2019.
  • Laughing Gull (1st cycle). Muskegon County, Michigan. 03 September 2019.
  • Little Gull (adult type). Grand Folks County, North Dakota. 03 September 2019.
    • Migrant molting. 3-4 retained outer primaries.
  • Sabine's Gull (1st cycle). Virginia Beach County, Virginia. 06 September 2019.
  • Little Gull (adult). Lyman County, South Dakota 06 September 2019.
  • Heermann's Gull (1st cycle). Brevard County, Florida. 11 September 2019.
    • 1st County Record from August 2019.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (adult). Keith County, Nebraska. 11 September 2019.
  • Black-headed Gull (1st cycle). Washington County, Rhode Island. 12 September 2019.
  • Ring-billed Gull (3rd cycle type). Anchorage County, Alaska. 15 September 2019.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Kitsap & King County, Washington. 21 September 2019.
  • California Gull (1st cycle). Clinton County, Illinois. 21 September 2019.
  • Bonaparte's Gull (adult). Coconino County, Arizona. 23 September 2019.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Monroe County, New York. 25 September 2019.
  • Thayer's Gull (adult). Santa Cruz County, California. 26 September 2019.

September 2019 Quiz

Age: Although the details of this dark, somewhat backlit individual are difficult to make out, the outermost primaries appear pointed enough, and tail feathers dark enough, to suggest 1st cycle.

Identification: It is obvious this gull is genuinely dark. What appears to be a sooty brown plumage isn't strictly a function of lighting conditions. The uniformly-filled undertail coverts and vent region reinforce its true darkness. The legs look black, and although lighting may be influencing this, they certainly don't look pale or pink. The bill is medium size with a fleshy base, complementing a relatively skinny neck and head. The wings appear narrow and noticeably long. The only regularly occurring North American gull that fits in this case is a young Heermann's Gull. A juvenile California Gull may cause confusion momentarily, but the undertail coverts and leg color don't work for even the darkest California Gull.

Our September bird is a juvenile Heermann's, photographed off the coast of Washington in August. From some 1800 Heermann's seen along the coast in late August, this was the only juvenile we encountered.

31 August 2019

Monthly Notables August 2019

  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (4th cycle type). North Slope County, Alaska. 02 August 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Kenai Peninsula County, Alaska. 05 August 2019.
  • Laughing Gull (2nd cycle type). Manicouagan County, Quebec. 05 August 2019.
  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Durham County, North Carolina. 24 August 2019.
  • Laughing Gull (juvenile). Beauharnois-Salaberry County, Quebec. 26 August 2019.
  • California Gull (1st cycle). Kenai Peninsula Borough, Alaska. 27 August 2019.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Del Norte County, California. 30 August 2019.
    • First County Record. 
  • Heermann's Gull (1st cycle). Brevard County, Florida. 31 August 2019.

August 2019 Quiz

Age: Our quiz bird is right of center. A brown, nondescript, individual with juvenile primaries and upperparts. We can be sure this is a 1st cycle gull. The dark eye in this species is kept as an adult, but the leg color soon transitions to yellow.

Identification: For reference, we have a distinct Heermann's Gull on the left and our quiz bird is not much different in size. The bill appears a tad longer and perhaps a tad slimmer than the Heermann's Gull. The weakly patterned undertail coverts, long downward gape, white forehead, and of course, size, all point to California Gull. Ordinarily, this species appears much longer-winged than seen here, but this is due to posture and the angle at which the primaries are being held over the tail (slightly away). Nonetheless, the structure is attenuated in the rear and the proportions are delicate, and not large and bulky, as presumably, other large west coast species. The scapulars on this bird are notably broad, large and dark-centered. There is quite a bit of variation in California Gull scapular patterns, just as with most other large, four-year gulls.

San Mateo County, California. September. 

01 August 2019

Monthly Notables July 2019

  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Norfolk County, Ontario. 02 July 2019.
  • Glaucous Gull (2nd cycle). Lake County, Illinois. 06 July 2019.
  • Franklin's Gull (subadult type). District of Columbia. 08 July 2019.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (3rd cycle). San Francisco County, California. 08 July 2019.
  • Iceland Gull (2nd cycle). Barnstable County, Massachusetts. 11 July 2019.
  • Glaucous Gull (2nd cycle). Sanilac County, Michigan. 17 July 2019.
  • Laughing Gull (adult).  Labrador-Happy Valley-Goose Bay County, NL. 19 July 2019.
    • 2nd Labrador Record.
  • Laughing Gull (juvenile). Lancaster County, Nebraska. 19 July 2019.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (1st cycle). Wabash County, Illinois. 24 July 2019.
  • Laughing Gull (2nd cycle). Pinal County, Arizona. 26 July 2019.
  • Heermann's Gull (juvenile). Polk County, Iowa. 28 July 2019.
  • California Gull (juvenile). Wilkin County, Minnesota. 28 July 2019.
  1. A belated report of the Pallas's Gull found on Shemya on 02 May 2019. The bird was found expired on 14 May 2019. The specimen has been preserved and is now at the University of Alaska Museum collection in Fairbanks.

July 2019 Quiz

Age: The darker bird on the left has an all-dark bill with a fair amount of juvenile scapulars and wing coverts. It's safe to age it as a 1st cycle. Given the leg color and largely juvenile plumage, we can assume it is a hatch year (HY). But what about the paler gull on the right? It too looks fine for a 1st cycle. Note its predominately brown-patterned wing coverts, post-juvenile scapulars with brown shaft streaks, notched tertials and pointed primaries. The gull on the right is undergoing a more extensive post-juvenile molt (gray lesser coverts coming in as well as a few inner median coverts). It also has a more advanced bill pattern and leg color.

Identification: The apparent difference in size and plumage aspects may suggest two different species, but this isn't the case. Based on bill size and overall proportions, they don't look like any of our large 4-year gulls. Both birds have relatively messy and contrasting upperparts and this is typical of young Ring-billed Gulls. The paler bird on the right is a typical 1st cycle Ring-billed. The pink bill base, paling white head and neck, silver-gray post-juvenile feathers and hints of a lightly marked tail band are supportive. The smaller bird on the left is also a Ring-billed, but perhaps one that hatched later in the breeding season. Mew Gull is eliminated by several features: 1) the wide bill base, 2) the gray inner greater covert, which Mews don't show in their hatch year, 3) the largely messy and contrasting plumage with dark-spotted post-juvenile upper scapulars. Mew shows a more warm aspect with softer textures and feather edges that are more broadly pale and uniform.

Both of these hatch year Ring-billed Gulls portray some of the variation found in this age group. Dark versus pale, and small versus large are appreciable differences that are encountered routinely.

August. Cook County, Illinois.

01 July 2019

Monthly Notables June 2019

  • Black-headed Gull (1st cycle). Iosco County, Michigan. 01 June 2019.
  • Heermann's Gull (adult type). Gila County, Arizona. 03 June 2019.
  • Bonaparte's Gull (1st cycle). Harrison County, Mississippi. 03 June 2019.
  • Ross's Gull (1st cycle). Nome County, Alaska. 06 June 2019.
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle). Jefferson County, Louisiana. 08 June 2019.
  • Laughing Gull (1st cycle). Faribault, Minnesota. 09 June 2019.
  • Thayer's Gull (adult). Orleans County, New York. 14 June 2019.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Matagorda County, Texas. 14 June 2019.
  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Woodford County, Illinois. 17 June 2019.
  • Sabine's Gull (adult). Central Okanagan District, British Columbia. 28 June 2019.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia. 28 June 2019.

June 2019 Quiz

Age: The above bird looks typical for an adult, large white-headed gull, while the bottom gull appears to be a typical 1st cycle.

Identification: Beginning with the adult, the slaty gray upperparts point to a black-backed. The bulbous banana-yellow bill and clean white head have the stamp of a Western Gull (although Yellow-footed can't be safely ruled out without leg color). The 1st cycle doesn't appear to be the same species based on the thinner and smaller bill, as well as narrower wings. The lack of an inner primary window, with double-brown "secondary" bars, and sharply demarcated black tip to the bill, give us every reason to believe this is a California Gull. The medium gray post-juvenile scapulars that have come in also support California Gull.

June's quiz birds are indeed an adult Western and 1st cycle California Gull.
Santa Cruz County, California. January. 

01 June 2019

Monthly Notables May 2019

  • PALLAS'S GULL (Ichthyaetus ichthyaetus - adult). Aleutians West County, Alaska. 02 May 2019.
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle). Monroe County, Indiana. 02 May 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult type). Valdez-Cordova County, Alaska. 02 May 2019.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Halton County, Ontario. 03 May 2019.
  • California Gull (2nd cycle). Cook County, Illinois. 04 May 2019.
  • Black-tailed Gull (adult). Valdez-Cordova County, Alaska. 06 May 2019.
  • Iceland Gull (adult & 1st cycle). Cook County, Illinois. 12 May 2019.
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). Rockingham County, New Hampshite. 14 May 2019.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (adult). Central Okanagan District, British Columbia. 15 May 2019.
    • 2nd Province Record.
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle type). St. Bernard Parish County, Louisiana. 17 May 2019.
  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Trumbull County, Ohio. 23 May 2019.
  • California Gull (2nd cycle). Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. 26 May 2019.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). North Slope Borough, Alaska. 27 May 2019.
    • Likely a first for Utqiagvik (Barrow).
  • Laughing Gull (adult). Boulder County, Colorado. 29 May 2019.
  • Black-tailed Gull (adult). San Mateo County, California. 30 May 2019.
  • Franklin's Gull (sub-adult). Crawford County, Pennsylvania. 31 May 2019.

  • A remarkale adult Pallas's Gull was found and photographed on Shemya Island by Richard Fischer on 02 May 2019. A first for the ABA area, the sighting struggled to excite many as the island is inaccessible to the public. Fischer relocated the gull the following day and secured more photos. This brings the list of gull species recorded in the ABA area up to 30.
  • During a shorebird survey on the Chandeleur Islands, Oscar Johnson & Matt Brady reported at least 30 putative Kelp x Herring hybrids, including nests. Johnson reports birds nearly as dark as Kelp were observed, and some slightly darker than Herrings with greenish legs and reduced p9-p10 mirrors. 

31 May 2019

May 2019 Quiz

Age: There are two generations of flight feathers seen here. The three outer primaries appear to be the juvenile (1st basic) feathers of a smaller hooded gull. This is also true for the secondaries with brown trailing edge. The 5-6 newer inner primaries are 2nd generation, and so we can be sure this bird is a 2nd cycle. Assuming this is a resident of the northern hemisphere, we might guess it's the boreal spring/summer.

Identification: This month's quiz isn't too bad if we narrow down our choices to a hooded gull with a moderate sized bill in proportion to the head, a dark trailing edge and narrow tailband. Black-headed and Bonaparte's are the top two contenders. Black-headed typically shows dark pigment on the underwing (all that's seen here is a shadow effect and no black). The all-black bill also points away from Black-headed and favors Bonaparte's. May's quiz bird is a relatively straight-forward one-year old Bonaparte's molting flight feathers.

Muskegon County, Michigan. May.

27 May 2019

Ten Is The Magic Number - Or Is It Eleven?

Every May since 2014, I've made it a point to run up to Wisconsin at the height of migration to attempt to see as many gull species possible. 8-9 species is relatively "easy" to get, with 10 being a good day. Yesterday, 26 May 2019, I tallied 9 species in Sheboygan and finished up with my 10th in Port Washington.

Sheboygan: Franklin's (1 sub-adult), Laughing (1 adult), Little (2 first cycle), Bonaparte's (~250; 95% first cycle), Ring-billed (~200; 80% first cycle), Herring (~300; 90% first cycle), Iceland (2 second cycles), Lesser Black-backed (4; two third cycle, two first cycle), California (second cycle).

Port Washington: 1st/2nd cycle type Glaucous Gull.

2nd Cycle California Gull (PB2 molt in motion with inner primaries molting). New scapulars, several tertials and inner upperwing coverts via 1st prealternate.

1st Cycle Little Gull (lower left) with similar-aged Bonaparte's Gull. Gray scaps likely formative. Black cap coming through most likely via 1st prealternate.

Same Individual Above. Note the darker, and thus stronger, outer webs to the primaries are entact.

1st Cycle Bonaparte's with nearly complete hood - an exception to the rule. Entire upperwing appears juvenile. Scapulars are formative, while the black head and white neck are 1st alternate.

Adult Herring Gull glamour shot. One of only a handful of definitive adults seen in Sheboygan.

2nd Cycle Thayer's Gull. The protected secondaries and tailband were sufficiently dark. The scapulars (at least the outer and lower feathers) and 2-3 new upperwing coverts are likely 2nd alternate.

1st Cycle Herring Gull with upperparts recalling Vega HERG, although the well-marked uppertail was typical Smith. Scapulars are 1st alternate, likely acquired last fall. Median coverts emerging (flat gray), perhaps best attributed to first prealternate molt resuming in spring. 

This is only my second time seeing California Gull in the spring/summer season in Wisconsin and it's reassuring to know an 11th species - Great Black-backed Gull - was possible in Manitowoc. Other species that I think are real possibilities for a "Big Gull Day" in this region are Black-legged Kittiwake and Slaty-backed Gull. The latter is a highly desired bird outside of the winter season!

01 May 2019

Monthly Notables April 2019

  • Sabine's Gull (adult). San Francisco County, California. 02 April 2019.
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle). Lafourche County, Alabama. 03 April 2019.
  • Thayer's Gull (1st cycle). Volusia County, Florida. 04 April 2019.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (adult). Logan County, Colorado. 06 April 2019.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Anne Arundel County, Maryland. 06 April 2019.
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle). Salt Lake County, Utah. 06 April 2019.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Barnstable County, Massachusetts. 07 April 2019.
  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Hall County, Georgia. 13 April 2019.
  • Mew Gull (2nd cycle). Nebraska. Lancaster County, Nebraska. 12 April 2019.
  • Glaucous-winged Gull (adult type). Kiowa County, Colorado. 13 April 2019. 
  • Common Gull (2nd cycle). St. John's County, Newfoundland. 17 April 2019.
  • California Gull (adult). New Haven County, Connecticut. 18 April 2019.
    • 2nd State Record.
  • Ivory Gull (adult). Manicouagan County, Quebec. 19 April 2019.
  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Lyon County, Kentucky. 20 April 2019.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). Dane County, Wisconsin. 20 April 2019.
  • Heermann's Gull (adult). Imperial County, California. 20 April 2019.
  • Thayer's Gull (2nd cycle). Galveston County, Texas. 22 April 2019.
  • California Gull (2 adults). Cook County, Illinois. 23 April 2019.
  • Ivory Gull (6 adults). Nome County, Alaska. 24 April 2019.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). San Luis Obispo County, California 30 April 2019.

30 April 2019

April 2019 Quiz

Age: Our quiz bird is the dark-backed gull right of center. This appears to be a relatively large, 1st/2nd cycle type gull. The broad white tips to the tertials, extensive non-juvenile upperwing coverts, lack of any mirrors on the outer primaries, and the considerable amount of white on the uppertail seems to suggest a 2nd cycle. The outer primaries appear to have pointed tips and are indeed 1st basic (juvenile) flight feathers. However, the start of the 2nd prebasic molt is signaled by the inner primaries being in active molt (difficult to see here, although p5 has been dropped).

Identification: Noticeably larger than the surrounding Ring-billeds, but not much so. This dark-backed gull has a relatively straight, tubular, bill with little expansion to the gonys. Looking closely, the eye is beginning to pale. The fine streaking above the eye, on the crown and hindneck, as well as the dark upperparts, make Lesser Black-backed Gull the best choice.

Sheboygan, Wisconsin. June.

31 March 2019

Monthly Notables March 2019

  • California Gull (2 adults). Marshall County, Kentucky. 01 March 2019.
  • Kamchatka Gull (adult). New Haven County, Connecticut. 02 March 2019.
  • Kumlien's Gull (1st cycle). Kootenai County, Idaho. 02 March 2019.
  • Glaucous-winged Gull (1st cycle). Pueblo County, Colorado. 06 March 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (1st cycle). San Joaquin County, California. 09 March 2019.
  • Western Gull (1st cycle). Dallas County, Texas. 09 March 2019.
    • Continuing from previous month. 
  • California Gull (1st cycle). Volusia County, Florida. 14 March 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult type). Monterey County, California. 14 March 2019.
  • Mew Gull (adult type). Bernalillo County, New Mexico. 15 March 2019.
  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Allegan County, Michigan. 17 March 2019.
  • California Gull (adult type). Franklin County, Massachusetts. 19 March 2019.
    • 5th State Record. 1st noncoastal occurence. 
  • Great Black-backed Gull (adult). Harrison County, Mississippi. 20 March 2019.
  • California Gull (adult type). Middlesex County, New Jersey. 24 March 2019.
    • 5th State Record. 1st County Record. Apparently the same individual sighted in MA the previous week.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (1st cycle). San Joaquin County, California. 24 March 2019.
  • Thayer's Gull (2nd cycle). Middlesex County, New Jersey. 25 March 2019.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (3rd cycle). Monterey County, California. 27 March 2019.
  • Kumlien's Gull (adult). Nanaimo District County, British Columbia. 28 March 2019.


1. The California Gull observed in MA and NJ displayed an interesting wingtip pattern that may be considered atypical for the species. In particular, the primary pattern lacks a mirror on p9, something unexpected on adults. Although expected on some 3rd cycle types, the Atlantic bird appears to be a definitive adult. 

30 March 2019

March 2019 Quiz

Age: The crisp, mottled brown, upperparts and body feathers, along with pointed dark primaries suggest a rather straight forward 1st cycle gull.

Identification: The frosted and checkered appearance of the upperwing coverts might call to mind Thayer's Gull, but this bird has already replaced a fair amount of it juvenile scapulars. You'd expect a Thayer's to do this late in the season when the upperparts are worn and primaries bleached. Also consider the paling bill and lack of pale edges to the primaries. Our March bird is a spiffy-looking Herring Gull photographed in mid-December. Chicago.

Here it is with another herring:

01 March 2019

Monthly Notables February 2019

  • Black-tailed Gull (adult type). Volusia County, Florida. 01 February 2019.
  • Glaucous-winged Gull (1st cycle). Pueblo County, Colorado. 01 February 2019.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Lake County, Illinois. 04 February 2019.
  • California Gull (adult). Marshall County, Kentucky. 08 February 2019.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Elkhart County, Indiana. 08 February 2019.
  • Thayer's Gull (1st cycle). St. John's County, Newfoundland & Labrador. 09 February 2019.
  • Thayer's Gull (adult). Yarmouth County, Nova Scotia. 09 February 2019.
  • Glaucous-winged Gull (1st cycle). Arapahoe County, Colorado. 09 February 2019.
  • Little Gull (adult). Clark County, Ohio. 10 February 2019.
  • Bonaparte's Gull (1st cycle). Valdez-Cordova County, Alaska. 12 February 2019.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Riverside County, California. 17 February 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Stanislaus County, California. 18 February 2019.
    • 1st County Record.
  • Western Gull (1st cycle). Dallas County, Texas. 21 February 2019.
    • 6th State Record. 1st County Record.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Shasta County, California. 22 February 2019.
  • California Gull (1st cycle). Skagway-Hoonah-Angoon County, Alaska. 22 February 2019.
  • Thayer's Gull (3rd cycle). Nantucket County, Massachusetts. 23 February 2019.
  • Little Gull (adult). Clinton County, Illinois. 24 February 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (2nd cycle). San Joaquin County, California. 24 February 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (3rd cycle type). Skagway-Hoonah-Angon County, AK. 24 February 2019.
  • European Herring Gull (adult). Volusia County, Florida. 26 February 2019.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). Licking County, Ohio. 27 February 2019.

Miscellaneous Notes:
  1. In proper form, Michael Brothers started off the month by finding a 1st state record Black-tailed Gull in Daytona Beach Shores. This one-day wonder fills a void for the species in the entire southeast region.
  2.  An apparent new North American high count of 817 Lesser Black-backed Gulls was recorded by Devich Farbotnik on 24 February 2019 at Lake Nockamixon. Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Incidentally, two individuals were wearing satellite transmitters, believed to be those installed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission in March of 2018.

28 February 2019

February 2019 Quiz

Age: Aging this individual is difficult given this limited view to the upperwing. We have what appears to be a hooded gull based on the post-ocular spot. On one hand it appears to have a dark trailing edge to the secondaries, suggesting a 1st cycle, but also shows two distinct mirrors on p9-p10. What appears to be an all-white tail is more indicative of a bird beyond its 1st plumage cycle.

Identification: This month's quiz elicited some interesting responses, ranging from Bonaparte's, Little, Black-headed, Gray-hooded and even Brown-hooded Gull. Only 4 people (out of 38) had the correct ID: Gray-hooded Gull. We can easily dismiss Bonaparte's as that species doesn't show a dark underwing. Little Gull is shorter-winged and lacks the relatively large maroon bill seen here - nor does it show mirrors per se. Black-headed Gull comes close to this, especially the dark underwing, but that species also lacks mirrors on the outer primaries, and instead, shows a distinct white wedge on the outermost primaries. Brown-hooded comes to mind. A 1st cycle Brown hooded has a mirror-band that typically shows three mirrors that are larger and more elongated than our quiz bird. If this were an adult Brown-hooded - which it is not - the outer primary tips would be completely white from underneath. The only reasonable choice left is Gray-hooded. The broad, smokey-gray to black pattern on the underwing, two reasonably-sized mirrors embedded in a black wingtip, maroon bill and what looks like traces of a faded gray hood help pin this identification.

This species has only been recorded in North America twice - once in Florida and once in New York.
Our February bird was photographed in November in coastal Peru. The upperwing reveals a distinct wingtip pattern exhibited by this species, as well as the darker secondaries seen on adult types.

01 February 2019

Monthly Notables January 2019

  • Glaucous-winged Gull (adult). Larimer County, Colorado. 01 January 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Monterey County, California. 01 January 2019.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (adult). Will County, Illinois. 01 January 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Wayne County, Michigan. 03 January 2019.
    • Continuing from previous month.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Riverside County, California. 03 January 2019.
  • Common Gull (adult). Essex County, Massachusetts. 05 January 2019.
    • Continuing bird with metal band on right leg. 
  • Kamchatka Gull (adult). Essex County, Massachusetts. 05 January 2019.
  • Kamchatka Gull (subadult). Fairfield County, Connecticut. 08 January 2019.
  • Ivory Gull (1st cycle). North Dame Bay-Lewisporte County, NL. 09 January 2019.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (adult). Daggett County, Utah. 13 January 2019.
  • Vega Gull (adult type). Volusia County, Florida. 14 January 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Stark County, Ohio. 15 January 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Essex County, Ontario. 16 January 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). St. John's County, Newfoundland. 17 January 2019.
  • Slaty-bcked Gull (adult). Shelburne County, Nova Scotia. 21 January 2019.
    • 2nd Province Record.
  • California Gull (adult type). Cape Breton County, Nova Scotia. 27 January 2019.
    • 2nd Province Record. Only the 3rd for Atlantic Canada.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (4th cycle type). Monterey County, California. 29 January 2019.

Miscellaneous Notes:
  1. Certainly the most exciting news this month is the Slaty-backed Gull discovered by Kent Miller in Stark County, Ohio. The setting for this sighting was nearly identical to the state's first Kelp Gull found at the same landfill four years ago. A long overdue bird for the Buckeye state.
  2. The banded Icelandic Common Gull that is now returning to MA, was found with an apparent Kamchatka Gull in Essex County. Observer Suzanne Sullivan reported both birds seen together. To make matters most interesting, the Kamchatka Gull shows a p8 mirror (limited to the inner web).
  3. With advanced digital photography now a common fixture in birding, quality photos of individual gulls are becoming increasingly revealing. The 2nd cycle type Black-legged Kittiwake observed in Will County, Illinois early in the month, was observed and photographed in St. Clair County, Michigan 8 days later (a distance of ~300 miles). Also, Ohio's 1st Slaty-backed Gull proved to be one of the adults seen in Brant County, Ontario a month earlier, traveling a short distance of 170 miles, likely straight across Lake Erie. 

January 2019 Quiz

Age: The plumage aspect looks typical of an adult-type, large white-headed gull. The outer two primaries, p9-p10, are growing out, with all flight feathers newly molted. This signals the end of a definitive adult prebasic molt. Assuming this individual was observed in the northern hemisphere, the time of year is likely late-summer to early fall.

Identification: The gray upperparts appear too pale for any black-backed, but also suspiciously darker than our pale, silvery gray species (Ring-billed, Iceland and Herring). Looking closely at the legs, we find this is a yellow-legged species. Possibilities are Mew, Ring-billed and California Gull. The black-to-red bill pattern and apparent dark eye are nearly diagnostic here, eliminating the former two. The well-marked primary pattern, forming an extensive black triangle to the wingtip is strongly suggestive of California Gull, which is what this individual is.

Imperial County, California. September.

01 January 2019

Monthly Notables December 2018


  • Ross's Gull (adult). Rockingham County, New Hampshire. 01 December 2018.
    • Seen off-shore on a pelagic trip.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Nipissing County, Ontario. 01 December 2018. 
    • Continuing from November.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Kings County, NY. 03 December 2018
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Contra Costa County, California. 06 December 2018.
    • First County Record.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Brant County, Ontario. 11 December 2018.
  • Bonaparte's Gull (1st cycle). Hawaii County, Hawaii. 12 December 2018.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (juvenile). Monroe County, Florida. 12 December 2018.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Brant County, Ontario. 12 December 2018.
    • A second adult discovered with the bird from the previous day.
  • Laughing Gull (1st cycle). Del Norte County, California. 12 December 2018.
  • Bonaparte's Gull (adult). Valdez-Cordova County, Alaska. 14 December 2018.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Larimer County, Colorado. 14 December 2018.
    • 3rd State Record. First County Record.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Wayne County, Michigan. 15 December 2018.
  • California Gull (adult). Bay County, Michigan. 22 December 2018.
    • First County Record.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (3rd cycle). San Mateo County, California. 23 December 2018.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). San Bernardino County, California. 23 December 2018.
    • First County Record. 
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (juvenile). Maricopa County, Arizona. 25 December 2018.
  • Thayer's Gull (adult). North Hampton County, Virginia. 26 December 2018.
  • Heermann's Gull (adult). Valley County, Montana. 29 December 2018.

  1. A first for the Great Lakes region were 2 Slaty-backed Gulls discovered feeding at the same site in Brantford, Ontario. Both birds were adults. 12 December 2018. Photograph comparisons show both birds are different than the Nipissing County individual continuing into December from November, making it 3 adult Slaty-backed Gulls in Ontario at once.