01 October 2023

September 2023 Quiz


Wisconsin. May. 

Age: Our quiz bird is in the center of the frame, in flight. The full tailband and dark ulnar bar across the upperwing suggest a 1st cycle. Given the month, it would be a one-year old, but it still hasn't begun its 2nd prebasic molt as all of the primaries are still intact. 

Identification: The trailing edge to the wing is important, and helps rule out Bonaparte's & Black-headed Gull. There is a trace of dusky pigment across the trailing edge of the outer secondaries and inner primaries, which rules out Black-legged Kittiwake. Given how bold and full the ulnar bar is (for a one-year old), the small bill and dusky cap, it is safe to say that the September Quiz bird is a Little Gull. The two-toned outer primaries (dark outer webs and paler inner webs) also support this ID. 1st cycle Little Gulls show pale wing linings, unlike older individuals which are marked boldly black. The even central tail feathers and full tail band rest any worries of a Ross's Gull. All the surrounding gulls are similar-aged Bonaparte's Gulls.

September 2023 Monthly Notables


  • Swallow-tailed Gull (adult). San Mateo County, California. 01 September 2023.
    • Apparently, the same individual seen in Santa Barbara County in July 2023.
  • Franklin's Gull (adult). Middlesex County, New Jersey. 02 September 2023.
  • GRAY GULL (3rd cycle type). Walton County, Florida. 03 September 2023.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). King/Kitsap County, Washington. 09 September 2023.
  • Black-legged Kittiwake (adult). Hamilton County, Ontario. 10 September 2023.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). De Baca County, New Mexico. 13 September 2023.
    • Apparent 1st County Record. At least 4 sightings throughout NM this month.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Flathead County, Montana. 13 September 2023.
  • Black-headed Gull (adult). Anchorage Municipality, Alaska. 17 September 2023.
    • Continuing adult completing prebasic molt. 
  • Franklin's Gull (1st cycle). Kings County, Prince Edward Island. 19 September 2023.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Benton County, Washington. 19 September 2023.
  • Little Gull (juvenile). Humphreys County, Tennesse. 20 September 2023.
    • 1st County Record.
  • Black-headed Gull (1st cycle). Queens County, Prince Edward Island. 20 September 2023.
  • Little Gull (juvenile). Kern County, California. 22 September 2023.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (2 - 2nd cycles). Calgary County, Alberta. 23 September 2023.
  • Glaucous Gull? (2nd cycle type). Cumberland County, New Jersey. 24 September 2023.
    • Continuing individual showing ghosted pattern on outer primaries.
  • California Gull (adult). Aitkin County, Minnesota. 25 September 2023.
  • Great Black-backed Gull (1st cycle). St Louis County, Minnesota. 26 September 2023.
  • Slaty-backed Gull (adult). Kodiak Island Borough, Alaska. 27 September 2023.
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult). Calgary County, Alberta. 27 September 2023.
  • Little Gull (adult). Keith County, Nebraska. 28 September 2023.
  • Laughing Gull (2nd cycle). Pacific County, Washington. 29 September 2023.
    • Continuing. 
  • Heermann's Gull (5th cycle). Duval County, Florida. 29 September 2023.
    • Atlantic Coast Bird. Present all month, completing 5th prebasic. 
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull (196 individuals). Matagorda County, Texas. 30 September 2023.
    • Likely a high county locally.


*A tattered 1st ABA Gray Gull was found in Walton County, Florida on 03 September 2023 by Adam Pickos. The bird was associating with Laughing Gulls in and around Dune Allen Beach and continued/s to be seen through mid-day, Wednesday, 20 September 2023. After rumors of local residents having seen the bird since at least late June/early July began to circulate, photos of presumably the same gull at nearby Camp Helen State Park were shared (Marvin Bojo Friel; 05 June 2023). June photos show an individual with thin white tips to the secondaries and a grayish-white head pattern. The best explanation for the June plumage is 2nd alternate (2nd cycles averages thinner white tips to the secondaries and browner upperparts and outer primaries than adults). Between early June and early September, the tips to the secondaries became so worn, presumably, such that most traces of white were erased, now giving the impression of an individual undergoing its 2nd prebasic molt, especially given its transformed basic head pattern. The June photos, coupled with new flight feathers growing in September suggest the bird was actually undergoing its 3rd prebasic molt (and hence a 3rd cycle). At the conclusion of its current prebasic molt, this individual should be virtually indistinguishable from an adult, and in fact would simply be labeled an adult. After going missing for a couple of days, it was relocated about 40 miles to the west in the Pensecola Beach region on both 24-25 September 2023. It then returned to its original location at Dune Allen Beach on 29-30 September 2023.

Relevant to this month's highlight, Liam Ragan found Mexico's 3rd Gray Gull (alternate adult) at the mouth of the San Isidro River in Oaxaca on 18 September 2023. Mexico's records are all very recent at two-year intervals, from 2019, 2021 and 2023, with the most recent sighting serving as the westernmost record. These recent sightings, including the 1st Galapagos record from July 2023, support the hypothesis that extralimital reports of Gray Gull correlate with strong El Nino years.