31 January 2023

January 2023 Quiz

Florida. January.

Age:  A multi-bird quiz. Let's call these front, center and back. The center bird (facing right) seems to be the simplest -- an adult type hooded gull. The front bird is a smaller individual, but a member of the large white-headed gulls and should be a 1st cycle. The bird in the back is also a large white-headed gull, but clearly larger and suggests 2nd cycle. Why are these two white-headed gulls one cycle apart, given that they look somewhat similar? Three-cycle species mature faster, of course. Another way to say this is four-cycle species mature slowly.

Identification: Beginning with the center gull, the somewhat long and droopy black bill, medium gray upperparts, and much black in the wingtip, look spot on for Laughing. The smaller individual in the front has a small bill with pink base. The post-juvenile scapulars (1st alternate) are light gray. The size, in comparison to the Laughing Gull makes this a fairly safe 1st cycle Ring-billed. Ring-billeds often have messier wing coverts at this age, especially this late in the season, but some maintain plain coverts and dark tertials. The 2nd cycle in the back has kept much black on the bill and has obvious slate gray scapulars (2nd alternate). The body size and bill size seem to eliminate Great Black-backed. The only other expected dark-backed (so-called black-backed) species in Florida is Lesser Black-backed, which this is. 2nd cycle Lesser Black-backeds are highly variable. This one looks rather docile and still shows a largely dark eye.