31 July 2022

July 2022 Quiz


August. Maryland. 

Age: As a rule, gulls that have drab brown heads, necks and upperparts are usually in their 1st molt cycle. This individual is dressed in juvenile plumage, also known as the 1st basic plumage. The primary tips are pointed, with outermost primaries not yet fully grown (hence the short wing projection past the tail). Several inner median coverts have been dropped in what should be considered the beginning stages of the first partial molt.

Identification: The combination of brown head and neck, scaly upperparts, white undertail coverts and vent region help move us away from any of the large four-cycle gulls. This is a so-called "hooded" species. The longish bill, full throughout its length, with moderate depth to the tip points away from smaller tern-like species (i.e., Bonaparte's, Little and Sabine's Gull). The only valid contenders are Laughing and Franklin's Gull. Even in fresh juvenile plumage, Franklin's averages less brown on the nape and foreneck with bolder eye crescents. Overall, Franklin's has a quasi-hood (much more a "mask") on the face. The bill averages thinner and shorter on Franklin's, and the body and head appear more compact. Our August quiz, as perhaps already given away by location, is a juvenile Laughing Gull. 

Laughing Gull has what are believed to be 2 partial molts in its 1st molt cycle (a preformative molt and a prealternate molt). Body feathers replaced around this time of year are a result of the preformative molt. In winter and early spring, many Laughing Gulls replace some of these body feathers and upperparts a 2nd time via a 1st prealternate molt.