31 December 2023

December 2023 Quiz


Age: A straight-forward 1st cycle large gull.

Identification: Our December Quiz is not trivial, especially out of context. Would it help if you knew it was photographed in England, in December? Of course!

The most noticeable feature on this individual is the pale tail base with whitish ground color. The fairly narrow tailband, thin horizontal barring on the post-juvenile scapulars, barred greater coverts and dark tips to the outer webs of the inner primaries all support European Herring Gull. Yellow-legged Gull averages darker inner primaries without this prominent window effect. Great Black-backed averages a more peppered blackish look to the upperparts, but variable. The smaller head and relatively thin bill also point away from Great Black-backed, which surprisingly, was the most popular response this month. 

A relevant question to ask is how would 1st cycle Vega Gull be ruled out? Out of range, it would present quite the challenge for even the most seasoned gull-watcher. That species averages more barring on the outer greater coverts, more intricately patterned proximal region to the tail band, more barring on the base of the outermost tail feather, and if visible, warmer brown underwing and underparts. Given the great variability in these 1st cycle taxa, it goes without saying that in North America, many won't be safely identified.