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.