31 May 2022

May 2022 Quiz


Massachusetts. April.

Age: This appears to be a large four-year gull, with pointed primary tips, and with what appear to be 1st generation wing coverts and tertials. It is a rather straight-forward 1st cycle type.

Identification: The overall pallid upperparts here may be due entirely to fading, on what may have been a pale bird to begin with. However, the dark tail, dark primaries and tertials do not appear to have suffered much bleaching or wear. There aren't many four-year gulls in the East that we can confuse this taxon with. Lesser Black-backed is ruled out by virtue of the pale regions throughout the wing panel and the light-gray second generation scaps. The proportions are entirely wrong for Great Black-backed, which also almost never shows an all dark uppertail like this. The most obvious answer is most times the correct answer, and indeed, our May quiz bird is a 1st cycle Herring Gull. 

I was surprised by the number of people who replied with "Thayer's Iceland Gull" this month. Although the bill is somewhat slim and the head appears small and refined, this can all be found in a smaller, female type Herring. The paler upperparts are also well within range for a slightly bleached Herring. In fact, there are many 1st cycle Herrings that are much more bleached than this in April (including the flight feathers). Also, Thayer's is generally not expected here and eliminating Herring would be step one. 

01 May 2022

April 2022 Quiz

British Columbia. March

Age: This is a larger four-cycle gull. The marked tail, faintly marked primary coverts and bill pattern suggest a 3rd cycle type.

Identification: The paler pigment on the outer primaries immediately evokes thoughts of a white-winged species (e.g., Iceland and Glaucous-winged). Glaucous Gull never shows mirrors as seen on the tenth primary, never has this much contrasting pigment on the primary pattern or tail, and the bill pattern often yellow by now. This is a broad-winged bird with apparent smudged head and neck markings. The eye appears relatively small and dark, but the bill is decidedly thick, which is very typical of Glaucous-winged. A fair number of Glaucous-winged Gulls can show this delayed bill pattern into 3rd cycle and this is what our March bird was identified as. Thayer's is ruled out by the lighter gray wingtips (although perhaps not unheard of in some variants), and particularly the larger bill and small-ish eye.

3rd cycle type Glaucous-wingeds can show this contrasting pigment on the outer primaries and this is not necessarily indicative of outside influence (i.e., hybridization with Herring or Western Gull).

April 2022 Monthly Notables


  • Heermann's Gull (1st cycle). Baltimore County, Maryland. 01 April 2022.
    • 1st State Record discovered on 31 March 2022, continuing through April.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). King County, Washington. 02 April 2022. 
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Sarasota County, Florida. 03 April 2022.
    • 2nd County Record.
  • California Gull (adult). Wayne County, Michigan. 04 April 2022.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (3rd cycle). Rockingham County, New Hampshire. 08 April 2022.
    • 4th State Record. 
  • California Gull (1st cycle). Cameron Parish, Louisiana. 09 April 2022. 
  • Glaucous-winged Gull (1st cycle). Calgary County, Alberta. 12 April 2022.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (1st cycle). Canyon County, Idaho. 12 April 2022.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (adult). Stanley County, South Dakota. 13 April 2022. 
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Saskatoon County, Saskatchewan. 15 April 2022.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Lewis & Clark County, Montana. 15 April 2022. 
  • Glaucous-winged Gull (1st cycle). Hughes County, South Dakota. 19 April 2022.
    • 4th State Record.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Del Norte County, California 20 April 2022.
  • Kelp Gull (adult). Cameron County, Texas. 20 April 2022.
    • Apparent 6th(?) state record.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Camrose-Lloydminister County, Alberta. 21 April 2022.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Le Rocher-Perce County, Quebec. 23 April 2022.
  • California Gull (1st cycle). Volusia County, Florida. 24 April 2022. 
  • Slaty-backed Gull (2nd cycle). Monterey County, California. 24 April 2022. 
  • California Gull (adult). Erie County, Pennsylvania. 25 April 2022.