Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists' Club         Southeastern Caribbean Bird Alert         Trinidad and Tobago Rare Bird Committee
RESPONSES TO 'Mystery Gulls' (Larus sp.)
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     What I question is the identification of the leftmost gull in the photo at the top of your
home page. I have seen many hundred Lesser Black-backeds, and this bird doesn't appear to me to be that species. Its body appears much too bulky, head too "squared," primaries too short, and, as far as I'm aware, the species never has such a strongly flesh-colored base of bill with well defined black tip. Although I haven't ever seen a Lesser Black-backed in summer in Florida, I have seen and photographed many first year Lesser Black-backeds in late spring and second year birds in fall. What I've found is that the bill goes from blackish with just a little fleshish color at the very base (early winter) to horn colored with black tip in the second year. The horn color is replaced by yellowish as the bird ages. Maybe it's just the quality of the image, and the bill wasn't as deeply flesh-colored in life as it comes across on the screen? And maybe it's the angle of the shot that makes the structure of the bird not seem right for Lesser Black-backed?

     As to the gull that *** ******** questioned, I do too: why isn't it a Kelp Gull just like the one on the right?...
     I breifly checked out some of the photos on your website - lots of interesting things there. I tried to open the flycatcher photos, but no photos appeared (even though the page with them did). I also looked at the photos of the Kelp Gull, which looked good enough. My main question was why isn't the young bird in the photos also a Kelp Gull, rather than a Lesser Black-backed?

RESPONDENT 2  [after new photos were posted]
     Most useful to see these additional pix! I would love to know what the tail looked like on this bird; can you tell me?
     Meantime, in several of the newly posted pix it looked quite light-backed. Is this so? If it is, then your bird could be a  Herring Gull That bill is VERY HG!). But the tail band is critical of course in separating _smithsonianus_ from _argenteus/argentatus_, so I'm interested in hearing back from you.

RESPONDENT 3 [after new photos were posted]
     I certainly won't claim to be a gull expert (as they are just about the last birds that I try to look at), but my feeling is that a first-alternate Lesser Black-backed Gull could very easily be as white-headed as your bird by July. In fact, I'd say that they can be almost that white-headed by March (though they often aren't). Structurally, it looks pretty similar to the adult Kelp Gull, and I am not convinced that one can really gain an appreciation of the bill shape in any of the photos.

RESPONDENT 4: Alvaro Jaramillo <>
     I must admit that looking at the photo again, it does indeed look good for  Kelp Gull. Structurally, the bulk, shortish rear end (wings) and longish legs look good for Kelp. The plumage pattern is dead on for a first basic Kelp Gull. I don't know if Lesser Black-back would be this white headed at this age?

RESPONDENT 5: Martin Reid <>
     I feel that the pics suggest this is closer to 1B Kelp than 1B LBBG. Features leading me to this position include: Pic B: the apparent ventral expansion of the gonys, creating a droop-tipped bill shape; the suggestion of dark in the "knees"; Pic F: in profile, the ratio of primary extension (wing/tail) : tail projection (tail/tertials) looks to be close to 1:1(1B Kelp appear to me to look a bit longer-winged than adults, with a 1:1 ratio being normal - LBBG has a shorter tail projection at all ages) - plus the general bulk of the bird, compared to other gulls in the pics. However, I'm not sure it can be identified with much degree of confidence from these images, as vital tail detail is missing (maybe it was carefully described in field notes?)

RESPONDENT 4: Alvaro Jaramillo <>
     I have a tough time making out the features on the second bird. One viewpoint is that they are both Kelp Gulls and are of the same age, its just that one has moulted more back feathers in than the other. However, the upperpart grey looks too pale on the right bird for a Kelp Gull. Having said that, the grey that comes in first is not as dark as that of the adults. Film type, lighting, scanning and probably other variables have an influence here. Structurally both birds look more like Kelp Gull than Lesser Black-backed, but you can be fooled by photos. I will keep thinking about the right "second year" bird some more.