A couple of weeks ago I posted a series of pictures of what I called “Ratty Summer Gulls” – gulls that are just plain ugly, especially when compared to, say, breeding plumage birds. All of the pictures were taken on a single trip to Jones Beach in June. The coolest bird of the bunch, a tattered bird that had mostly white plumage, I left unidentified. Why? Well, to be honest, I was unsure of what it was, and I wanted to see what folks had to say without prejudicing anyone in any way. My thoughts vacillated between Ring-billed Gull because it seemed small to Iceland Gull because it was so darn white and the structure just felt right. I was really leaning towards Iceland Gull but that bird would be pretty out of place in June on Long Island, and if I have learned anything of late it is that a birder must take things like probability into account. But how does one compare the likelihood of a June Iceland Gull loafing amid sunbathers the odds of a bleached out and freaky looking Ring-billed Gull?
Comments on the bird’s identity, especially on Facebook, leaned heavily towards Iceland Gull until another birder who had actually seen the bird in question argued, basically on size, that it was a Ring-billed Gull. So, what do you think? First up are the two images I shared on the last post…
Based on those two images, what do you think? What about when I add four more?
I’ll just add this quote, from ¨Identify Yourself” by Bill Thompson III:
“No group of birds fills bird watchers with as much dread as gulls. They are the Gordian knot of avian identification challenges, a black hole into which hope and sanity are sucked.”
I dont think its proportioned much like a Ring-billed, but what do I know? That Herring Gull with the zombie leg is the real winner here.
Iceland Gull for me, all the leucistic Ring-billed Gulls that I can find images for show a classic Ring-billed bill pattern, whilst I haven’t seen any in the flesh for a number of years at this age (2CY) it should be clearly pink with black tip. I’d also suggest that the amount of wear showing is more in keeping with an individual that has retained it’s juvenile feathers for 12 months rather than one that has undergone a moult from juvenile to 1st-winter.
Put me in the Iceland camp as well. The bird’s GISS doesn’t look RBGU. It seems too deep-bellied and heavy necked, plus the one shot above with HERG, it looks as I would expect an Iceland to look (as far as size and structure). I had a very similar, but not quite so bleached bird in Chicago on May 19.
Tail pattern looks right for Iceland and totally off for Ring-billed. I also think that although it’s hard to judge size in these photos it doesn’t look dwarfed by the Herrings in the foreground and background.
Clearly Iceland. Leucistic gulls still show their dark pattern, just very much paler than usual. All the patterning that’s visible, on the tail, undertail coverts, and mantle, are okay for Iceland and not okay for Ring-billed. If I was faced with this bird, I’d clearly identify it as Iceland, with the thought of a bleached / unusual ring-billed or whatever gull not even crossing my mind.