I can almost hear it now, a disappointed, frustrated, “Ugh. A gull.” Much more quietly, I can hear, “Hey! A LWHG!”
For those not into these sorts of beasts, that’s “large, white-headed gull.” In other words, a member of the type genus of the family Laridae: Larus. Hey, November is one of the better months for gulls, so….
Regularly occurring and at least uncommon species of the genus in the ABA Area include species as small as Short-billed Gull (aka Mew Gull) and as large as Great Black-backed Gull. Despite the confusion engendered in many birders, Larus identification in most of the ABA Area is relatively straightforward, particularly as compared to the Old World Larus. However, the Pacific coast, from the meeting of the breeding ranges of Glaucous and Glaucous-winged gulls in western Alaska, through the meeting of the breeding ranges of Glaucous-winged and Herring gulls in the vicinity of Anchorage, to the meeting of the breeding ranges of Glaucous-winged and Western gulls in the Puget Sound area, and, in the non-breeding portions of the year, the rest of the Lower 48 Pacific Coast, provides for more than enough confusion and literally unidentifiable gulls to make the rest of the ABA Area’s birders wary of the genus. In actual fact, only a few species are common enough in most of the Lower 48 and Canada as to greatly reduce the chance of confusion… once one has gathered a bit of knowledge about plumages and molt sequences (about which I highly recommend Steve Howell’s Gulls of the Americas).
To allay fears, the quiz bird is not a hybrid. Additionally, with the caveat provided in the quiz photo, various species with ABA codes of 4 or 5 – Belcher’s, Black-tailed, Yellow-legged, and Kelp – are ruled out (Note: this is not an ABA code 4 or 5 species.) Heermann’s is simply right out.
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