Bird #405 — Iceland Gull

larus (ravenous seabird) glaucoides (resembling the Glaucous Gull)

Friday, March 1, 2002 — 9:15 am

Zion, Illinois — North Point Marina — Lake Michigan

I was looking at my lifer Glaucous Gull while the guy who told me where to find it scoped through the vast flock of gulls that lined the docks across the harbor and stood on the ice. I saw him looking in his field guide. He asked me to look through his scope at a gull that looked different from the others. Although there were 30 or so gulls in view, I saw immediately which one he referred to. It looked just like the nearby Herring Gulls, but the color on its wingtips was slate gray instead of black and covered a smaller area — restricted to the outer four primaries, with a band across the feather and a narrow edging along the forward edge.

I found it in my scope with some difficulty since all the docks and all the gulls looked so much alike. It was standing on a dock about 60 yards out in the harbor. Apart from the lighter color on its wings, there was no clue to its identity. Then it flew about 20 feet to another place on the same dock. Now we knew. There was no black visible on its wings anywhere. The undersides were bright white. The top was pale gray along the length but white on the tip. Even the bit of slate gray visible on the standing bird wasn’t apparent on the flying bird.

A little while later it took off again, circled around and landed on the next dock over. I saw where it landed, so we moved down and soon found it again. (Fortunately, the slips in the docks were numbered, which enabled me to find it and point it out to other birders.) It stood there, not doing much for the next 10 minutes. I went to my car to get my camera, and when I got back it was gone.

It looked very much like the Herring Gulls, except for the color on the wings I’ve already described. It was also a little smaller. Its head was rounded with a few thin streaks on the crown and hindneck. Its bill was shorter, yellow with the obligatory red spot on the lower mandible. The legs were pink and noticeably shorter than those of the nearby Herring Gulls. At one point, I had the Iceland and Glaucous Gulls in my binoculars at the same time.

This entry was posted in Birds. Bookmark the permalink.