01 July 2020

Monthly Notables June 2020


  • Glaucous Gull (2nd cycle). Lincoln County, Oregon. 01 June 2020.
    • Continuing. Apparently only the second "June" record, locally.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (adult). Montreal County, Quebec.03 June 2020.
  • Sabine's Gull (adult). La Vallee-de-l-'Or County, Quebec. 04 June 2020.
  • Franklin's Gull (2nd cycle type). New London County, Connecticut. 05 June 2020.
  • Laughing Gull (2 - 2nd cycles). Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. 10 June 2020.
    • 2nd County Record. 
  • Glaucous-winged Gull (2nd cycle). Wichita County, Texas. 08 June 2020.
    • Pending acceptance. Would be 2nd State Record. 
  • Great Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Lake County, Illinois. 10 June 2020.
  • Laughing Gull (2nd cycle). Manitowoc County, Wisconsin. 11 June 2020.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Cape Many County, New Jersey. 13 June 2020.
  • Glaucous Gull (2nd cycle). Glynn County, Georgia. 13 June 2020.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). Jackson County, Colorado. 13 June  2020.
  • Iceland Gull (2nd cycle). Allegan County, Michigan. 15 June 2020.
  • Laughing Gull (2nd cycle). Cerro Gordo County, Iowa. 15 June 2020.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Albany County, Wyoming. 16 June 2020.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Queen Anne's County, Maryland. 19 June 2020.
    • 1st County Record. First summer record for MD since 2008.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Bay County, Michigan. 20 June 2020.
    • 2nd County Record. Last seen in Bay County in December 1981. 
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Barnstable County, Massachusetts. 21 June 2020.
  • Heermann's Gull (2nd cycle). Duval County, Florida. 21 June 2020.
    • Now in it's 2nd plumage cycle. Same individual since August 2019.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Mendocino County, California. 22 June 2020.
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle type). Macomb County, Michigan. 25 June 2020.
  • Sabine's Gull (2nd cycle type). Los Angeles County, California. 27 June 2020.

  • The biggest surprise this month was the apparent Glaucous-winged type from Wichita County, Texas. It looks like a bona fide Glaucous-winged Gull, but bleaching on the primaries makes it impossible to ascertain previous patterns. Uppertail pattern favors Glaucous-winged Gull over a hybrid.
    • 08 June 2020 - 2nd prebasic molt in motion with p1-p2 missing.
    • 11 June 2020 - new p1 barely visible, just beyond primary coverts.
    • 12 June 2020 - p3 missing, new p1 now clearly visible well beyond p-coverts.
  • The other highlight this month is alternate adult Black-headed Gulls found in random places that they're not usually expected in the summer. Most notable is Bay County, Michigan which had not seen this species in the county in 39 years, and is now a first summer record. 
  • Finally, summering Lesser Black-backeds in the interior continue have increased, especially for the last 3 years. Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska all reported 1-3 birds each. All of these individuals, expect for Wyoming, appear to be one-year-olds beginning their 2nd plumage cycles. 

June 2020 Quiz

June. Wisconsin.

Age:  It's safe to assume this is a 1st cycle based ont the black terminal band on the tail.

Identification: Our June bird appears to be a small, two-cycle, gull. The small, pointy bill, black pseudo-hood and thin black tips to the primaries immediately evoke Little Gull and Bonaparte's. It's difficult to judge bill proportions here, but Black-headed is safely ruled out not only by the bill's color, but also by the white under side to the primaries. As for Bonaparte's, that species would show a prominent black trailing edge running across all of the remiges. Here's an example of a typical trailing edge on Bonaparte's:

Instead, what we see here is a "spotty" black trailing edge that is discontinuous and weakly patterned, which leaves us with Little Gull.

01 June 2020

Monthly Notables May 2020

  • Little Gull (adult). Elkhart County, Indiana. 01 May 2020.
  • Western Gull (3rd cycle type). Grand Prairie County, Alberta. 04 May 2020.
    • An apparent 1st record for the province.
  • Heermann's Gull (1st cycle). Duval County, Florida. 04 May 2020.
    • Continuing from April 2020. Same individual roaming the FL coast since August 2019.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (adult). San Diego County, California. 06 May 2020.
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle). Harrison County, Mississippi. 07 May 2020.
  • California Gull (3rd cycle). Cuyahoga County, Ohio. 09 May 2020.
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle). Galveston County, Texas. 10 May 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Kenai Peninsula County, Alaska. 11 May 2020.
    • Likely the same individual from Anchor Point on 07 May 2020.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Iqaluit, Nunavut. 16 May 2020.
    • 2nd record for the territory. Wearing an unread silver band on right leg.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Iqaluit, Nunavut. 16 May 2020.
    • Seen at the same landfill in Baffin where the Black-headed above was found.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). La Vallee-de-l'Or County, Quebec. 17 May 2020.
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle type). Walla Walla County, Washington. 17 May 2020.
  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Edmonton County, Alberta. 18 May 2020.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (1st cycle). Dubuque County, Iowa. 24 May 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (2nd cycle). San Francisco County, California. 27 May 2020.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). St. John's County, Newfoundland. 27 May 2020.

31 May 2020

May 2020 Quiz

Michigan. August.

Age: This month's quiz is timely with many gulls in the northern hemisphere now beginning to replace flight feathers. Undergoing a complete molt, this individual has renewed most of its primaries which have an adult-like pattern to them. Overall the upperwing and tail are far from "definitive adult" and so it is perfectly fine to assume the newer flight feathers that have come in are 3rd generation. Thus, this is the 3rd plumage cycle and the complete molt here is the 3rd prebasic molt. The old retained primary (p10) is 2nd generation.

Identification: The brownish cast to the upperparts impart a darker feel than is typical of this species. Focusing on the new primaries, it is apparent that we're looking at a paler gray species. The bill is on the heavy side, but proportionately sized with the head. The eye appears dark, but zooming in shows much speckling and paling -- this helps rule out California Gull. The wide and complete tailband, and bill pattern, are wrong for a Ring-billed Gull, among several other features. The only reasonable identification for this pink-legged, pale, large white-headed gull, is Herring Gull.

01 May 2020

Monthly Notables April 2020

  • Slaty-backed Gull (3rd cycle). Douglas County, Wisconsin. 02 April 2020.
  • Mew Gull (1st cycle). Nueces County, Texas. 03  April 2020.
    • Continuing from February 2020. 
  • Yellow-legged Gull (adult). St. John's County, Newfoundland. 07 April 2020.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Chittenden County, Vermont. 07 April 2020.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Ventura County, California. 07 April 2020.
  • California Gull (subadult). Elkhart County, Indiana. 10 April 2020.
  • Little Gull (adult). Prince William County, Virginia. 17 April 2020.
  • Heermann's Gull (2nd cycle). Pima County, Arizona. 18 April 2020.
  • Little Gull (adult). Elkhart County, Indiana. 20 April 2020.
  • Laughing Gull (1st cycle). San Francisco County, California. 20 April 020.
    • Apparent 4th record for San Francisco.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Suffolk County, New York. 21 April 2020.
  • Franklin's Gull (2 adults). San Mateo & San Francisco County, California. 24 April 2020.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Mason County, West Virginia. 24 April 2020.
  • Heermann's Gull (1st cycle). Duval County, Florida. 26 April 2020.
    • 1st County Record. Roaming eastern Florida coast since August 2019.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Racine County, Wisconsin. 27 April 2020.
  • Black-tailed Gull (adult). Central Okanagan District, British Columbia. 30 April 2020.

April 2020 Quiz

Age: An apparent large white-headed gull that appears to be beyond its 1st cycle. Notice the marbled inner greater coverts and lower tertial edges. Also, there appears to be three generations of median coverts. The mid median coverts are oldest. These worn and frayed feathers are likely 2nd basic. The outer median coverts are fresher and may have come in with a later 2nd prebasic wave (along with the lesser coverts). The darker gray inner medians are very likely 2nd alternate. All in all, the upperparts do not fit a 1st cycle. It's difficult to make out primary-tip shape or patterns, but the very small and indistinct white tips to p6-p7 on otherwise black primaries are expected on 2nd generation flight feathers.

Identification: This is a four-year gull with an apparent long wing projection, prominent gape with a "frown", a dark post-ocular line, pinched in forehead, straight tubular bill with a familiar distal-black, proximal-red pattern on the tip, bluish tibia, heavy lower neck markings, and medium gray upperparts coming in. The gull in the background is a heavy-billed Western Gull giving us a very good sense of overall body size and shape. I hope by now you've settled on California Gull if you were unsure about our April quiz. Many people nailed this one without a problem this month but were tripped up by plumage/age. One final note on that, notice the very tip to the bill. In 1st cycles, the tip is typically all black, similar to that we see in many 1st-2nd cycle Glaucous.

Santa Cruz County, California. January.

01 April 2020

Monthly Notables March 2020


  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Riverside County, California. 01 March 2020.
  • Glaucous-winged Gull (adult). Larimer County, Colorado. 01 March 2020.
  • California Gull (adult). St. Joseph County, Indiana. 01 March 2020.
  • Little Gull (adult). Allegan County, Michigan. 02 March 2020.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (1st cycle). Lancaster County, Nebraska. 06 March 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Comox-Strathcona District, British Columbia. 07 March 2020.
  • Little Gull (adult). Davidson County, Tennessee. 08 March 2020.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Clay County, Missouri. 11 March 2020.
    • 2nd State Record.
  • Kumlien's Gull (1st cycle). Harrison County, Mississippi. 11 March 2020.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). St. Charles County, Missouri. 11 March 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Sitka County, Alaska. 12 March 2020.
  • California Gull (adult). Scott County, Minnesota. 15 March 2020.
    • 1st County Record.
  • Sabine's Gull (adult). San Diego County, California. 18 March 2020.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Lancaster County, Nebraska. 19 March 2020.
  • Heermann's Gull (1st cycle). Nassau County, Florida. 19 March 2020.
    • Same individual spotted along the eastern Florida coast all winter.
  • Sabine's Gull (adult). San Bernadino County, California. 21 March 2020.
  • Little Gull (adult). Galveston County, Texas. 21 March 2020.
  • California Gull (adult). Dakota County, Minnesota. 23 March 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Monterey County, California. 27 March 2020.
  • Heermann's Gull (1st cycle). St. John's County, Florida. 27 March 2020.
    • Same individual spotted along the eastern Florida coast all winter.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Wayne County, Ohio. 28 March 2020.
  • Kamchatka Gull (adult). Nantucket County, Massachusetts. 28 March 2020.

1) On 19 March 2020, Priscilla Footlik reported "the" 1st cycle Heermann's Gull that has been wintering on the eastern Florida coast at Fernandina Beach in Nassau County. This is the northernmost sighting of this individual, just a rock's throw from the Georgia border.

March 2020 Quiz

Northern Illinois. 
Somewhat of a tricky plumage, but when compared to the 2nd cycle Herring in the background, we can be confident about categorizing this as a larger four-year gull. Based on the rounded tips to the primaries (see the innermost primary closest to the tertials, for instance), it's safe to suggest 2nd cycle. The plain, marbled, greater coverts and soft stippling on the outer edges of the lower tertials also support 2nd cycle.

This overall delicate-looking gull has smaller proportions, with a small head and short, straight bill. Looking critically at the primaries, note they're actually a dark brown and not black. The tertials are a lighter brown, and the contrast from wingtip to wing coverts is a gradual one (not as contrasy as the Herring in the background). There aren't many gray, adult-like, scapulars on the back and that's somewhat helpful. The mostly black bill for a 2nd cycle four-year gull is also a good supporting field mark for this species. If you guessed Thayer's Gull for this month's quiz, congratulations and well done. Based on size, structure and plumage, I identified this individual as a 2nd cycle Thayer's Gull. Open wing below.

Lake County, Illinois. March.

28 February 2020

Monthly Notables February 2020


  • Little Gull (adult type). Caddo Parish, Louisiana. 01 February 2020.
    • 1st county record. 
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle). Val Verde County, Texas. 01 February 2020.
  • Kamchatka Gull (adult). Delaware County, Pennsylvania. 01 February 2020.
    • Pending acceptance.
  • Kamchatka Gull (adult). Essex County, Massachusetts. 01 February 2020.
  • Common Gull (adult). Essex County, Massachusetts. 03 February 2020.
  • Mew Gull (adult). Norfolk County, Massachusetts. 03 February 2020.
  • California Gull (1st cycle). Nueces County, Texas. 04 February 2020.
  • Mew Gull (1st cycle). Nueces County, Texas. 04 February 2020.
  • Slaty-back Gull (adult). St. John's County, Newfoundland. 04 February 2020.
  • Laughing Gull (1st cycle). Essex County, New York. 05 February 2020.
    • Apparent 1st winter record for Lake Champlain basin & Adironacks.
  • Black-headed Gull (1st cycle). Okaloosa County, Florida. 06 February 2020.
  • Ivory Gull (1st cycle). Lake County, Montana. 08 February.
    • Continuing from January.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Tompkins County, New York. 09 February 2020.
  • California Gull (1st cycle). Cuyahoga County, Ohio. 11 February 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Monterey County, California. 13 February 2020.
  • Vega Gull (adult). San Mateo County, California. 14 February 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Yolo County, California. 15 February 2020.
    • Likely same individual from January.
  • California Gull (adult). St. Joseph County, Indiana. 15 February 2020.
  • Little Gull (adult). Dallas County, Texas. 16 February 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Cuyahoga County, Ohio. 19 February 2020.
    • 2nd State Record. 1st County Record.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Del Norte County, California. 25 February 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). San Mateo County, California. 29 February 2020.

27 February 2020

February 2020 Quiz

Age: The plain brown upperparts and pointed primary tips suggest a 1st cycle which appears to be mostly juvenile (1st basic). The dark auriculars may also clue us in to a bird that has hatched not too long ago.

Identification: The milky-brown plumage aspect, with muted and plain wing coverts are very suggestive of Glaucous-winged. The eye is disproportionately small for such a large face, also suggesting a Pacific Northwest taxon. The outer primaries and uppertail contrast with the rest of the plumage, indicating a darker-winged species may be involved. This is usually a draw between Western and Herring, and knowing the location and time of year would be helpful. The bill isn't too large, or at least the tip isn't as bulbous or blob-tipped like many Western x Glaucous-wingeds. Further, the upperparts all have distinct notching to their edges, something frequently found in Herring x Glaucous-wingeds. To further rule out Western influence, note that the covert rows don't have any wavy barring or checkered patterning.

This individual was photographed on the Kenai Peninsula in late August, the origin of many Herring x Glaucous-winged Gulls. Another photo below in profile, giving a better idea of how dark the primaries are - a little too dark to be comfortably called a pure Glaucous-winged in the Cook Inlet region.

01 February 2020

Monthly Notables January 2020

  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Riverside County, California. 01 January 2020.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Riverside County, California. 02 January 2020.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). San Diego County, California. 05 January 2020.
  • Heermann's Gull (1st cycle). Palm Beach County, Florida. 06 January 2020.
    • Continuing.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (adult). Osage County, Kansas. 06 January 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Benton County, Washington. 10 January 2020.
  • Glaucous-winged Gull (adult). Salt Lake County, Utah. 11 January 2020.
  • Mew Gull (1st cycle). Nueces County, Texas. 12 January 2020.
  • California Gull (adult). Sarasota County, Florida. 12 January 2020.
  • Little Gull (adult). Davidson County, Tennessee. 12 January 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). San Mateo County, California. 14 January 2020.
  • Little Gull (adult). Rankin County, Mississippi. 14 January 2020.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Eddy County, New Mexico. 14 January 2020.
  • Laughing Gull (1st cycle). Pictou County, Nova Scotia. 16 January 2020.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (1st cycle). Boulder County, Colorado. 19 January 2020.
  • Common Gull (adult). Bristol County, Massachusetts. 20 January 2020.
    • 1st county record of this subspecies.
  • Glaucous Gull (1st cycle). Escambia County, Florida. 20 January 2020.
  • Kamchatka Gull (adult). Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania. 23 January 2020.
    • Pending acceptance. 
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Monterey County, California. 23 January 2020.
  • Little Gull (2nd cycle). Caddo Parish, Louisiana. 24 January 2020.
  • California Gull (subadult). Sangamon County, Illinois. 25 January 2020.
  • Black-headed Gull (1st cycle). Lee County, Florida. 25 January 2020.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (1st cycle). Larimer County, Colorado. 26 January 2020.
    • Apparently the same individual from Boulder County. 
  • California Gull (1st cycle). Ketchikan Gateway County, Alaska. 26 January 2020.
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). Orange County, California. 29 January 2020.
  • Ivory Gull (1st cycle). Lake County, Montana. 30 January 2020.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Yolo County, California. 31 January 2020.

January 2020 Quiz

Aging this one is a bit trickier than usual, and should be done in conjunction with its identity. The underbody and wing linings are very adult-like, but confusing here is a largely black tail, no mirrors and a pale iris.

This species has a longer and thinner than average bill when compared to most other 4 years gulls. The upperparts, at least what we can detect from them on the upperside of the far wing, are somewhere between a Laughing Gull and pale-end Lesser Black-backed Gull.

The yellow legs and proximal-red, distal-black, bill tip pattern are very helpful to narrowing this down to Black-tailed Gull. The black tailband and uniformly broad white tips to the tail is key. No other species in North America will show this.

As for its age, the black splotches across the secondary centers and dusky under primary coverts make it fairly safe to call it a 3rd cycle type.

A complete dorsal view of this beauty:

3rd Cycle Black-tailed Gull. Choshi, Japan. December.

11 January 2020

1st Cycle Vega Gulls

A small set of 1st cycle Vega Herrings from the Pacific Coast of Japan. Chiba Prefecture. December-January. 

Juvenile Scapular patterns are variable, but in general, a much neater and tidier look than American Herring. Most feathers have pale edging throughout, and many lower scaps have what I'm calling a "Native American arrowhead" pattern. There are also diamond and heart-shaped dark centers on many individuals that I've not noted on Smithsonianus.


04 January 2020

Monthly Notables December 2019

  • Ross's Gull (adult). King County, Washington. 01 December 2019.
    • 3rd State Record.
  • Heermann's Gull (adult type). Tarrant County, Texas. 02 December 2019.
    • 5th State Record.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Brant County, Ontario. 06 December 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Niagara County, Ontario. 08 December 2019.
  • Laughing Gull (adult). Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. 06 December 2019.
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). La Vallee-du-Richelieu County, Quebec. 07 December 2019.
  • California Gull (adult). Marion County, Iowa. 08 December 2019.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). New Hanover County, North Carolina. 08 December 2019.
    • Likely a returning bird for the 4th consecutive winter.
  • Common Gull (adult). Pictou County, Nova Scotia. 08 December 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Niagara County, New York. 18 December 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult & 2nd cycle). Middlesex County, Ontario. 13 December 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Walla Walla County, Washington. 16 December 2019.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Benton County, Washington. 21 December 2019.
  • Laughing Gull (1st cycle). San Mateo County, California. 21 December 2019.
  • Mew Gull (2nd cycle). Dona Ana County, New Mexico. 22 December 2019.
  • California Gull (adult). Middlesex County, New Jersey. 23 December 2019.
  • California Gull (1st cycle). Cameron County, Texas. 25 December 2019.
  • Little Gull (1st cycle). Riverside County, California. 30 December 2019.
  • Heermann's Gull (1st cycle). Palm Beach County, Florida. 31 December 2019.
    • Continuing individual wintering on FL Atlantic coast.

  1. The adult Ross's found on Lake Washington in Seattle appeared to be ill with droopy wings and a lazy gait. After two hours of observation birders witnessed a Bald Eagle fly in and effortlessly take the gull. It was carried to a nearby tree and consumed. Not unlike the story of the adult Ross's Gull from San Mateo County, California a few years ago, these sightings reinforce the belief that ROGUs which make it this far south do not fare well. 
  2. Similar to last winter, southern Ontario hosted 3-4 Slaty-backed Gulls in December. 
  3. Of interest is the 10,000 California Gulls reported in Salt Lake County, Utah in early December. 

03 January 2020

December 2019 Quiz

Age: It appears this is a large four-year gull, and judging by the plumage aspect, we can estimate it is in its 3rd plumage cycle. The adult-like, gray, inner primaries, with broad white tips are sufficient enough to steer us away from 2nd cycle, but the black secondary centers, broad tail band, marked primary coverts and brown cast to the wing coverts assure us this isn't an adult.

Identification: To begin identifying this gull, we should ask which large four-year gull has a pale eye at this age, relatively paler gray upperparts and a proportionately-sized bill. California Gull is ruled out by the pale eye. Ring-billed - a 3 year gull -  may come to mind but this is a larger and more broad-winged bird. Furthermore, 2nd cycle Ring-billeds never show tailbands this wide. Our December bird is a fairly typical Herring Gull, except perhaps for the lack of white in the outer primaries. At this age, Herrings usually show a mirror (or two) on the outer wing, but on rare occasion may not. It is worth mentioning that gray feathers mixed with brown pigments almost always make sub-adults appear darker than typical adults. Add to this an already underexposed image and the result is a bird that appears darker than what we normally associate with American Herring Gull.

Chicago. November.