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Posts Tagged ‘Ring-billed Gull’

I took my shorebird class to the coast, from Cannon Beach to Hammond. While birding overall was good, the shorebirds were less than stellar in both number and diversity.

black oystercatcherBlack Oystercatcher is a reliable species on Haystack Rock.

puffinNesting season is still in full swing on Haystack Rock. Here is a Tufted Puffin among some Common Murres.

mixed flockThe rocks at the Hammond Boat Basin continue to be a reliable high-tide roost for Marbled Godwits and Whimbels.
godwits and whimbrel
whimbrelheerman'sOf course, you can’t go to the coast without appreciating the gulls. Here is a Heermann’s Gull in a rather unflattering stage of molt.
ring-billedFirst cycle Ring-billed Gull

crossbill 1One of the more interesting sightings of the day was a pair of Red Crossbills on the shore of The Cove in Seaside. These birds are usually hard to see as they cruise the tops of large conifers. This pair was down to take salt from the rocks in the intertidal zone. (male pictured, the female eluded the camera)
crossbill 3For the purposes of my shorebird class, it would have been much better to find Black Turnstones, Ruddy Turnstones, Wandering Tattlers, and Surfbirds at this site, but you can’t complain too much when you get to see Crossbills on the beach.

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Broughton Beach is the stretch of shoreline along the Columbia River, just north of the Portland airport. It has been a popular spot to access the river to scan for waterfowl in winter, and the shore attracts some neat birds, like Horned Larks, American Pipits, and the occasional Short-eared Owl. There used to be free parking there, but that was eliminated when the adjacent public boat launch was expanded to include a nice new car parking lot (with a fee station).

horned grebeThere weren’t many birds on the water during my recent visit. Here is a distant Horned Grebe.

gull flockA mixed flock of gulls was loafing on a sand spit. There are at least four species in this photo, lots of California, a Mew, a Herring, and a few Ring-billed.

peregrine 1The gull flock was resting after being harassed by this guy. This Peregrine Falcon spent several minutes flying through the flock, taking half-hearted swipes at various gulls. Perhaps he was testing for any individuals that were injured or particularly slow.

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A quick visit to Westmoreland Park in southeast Portland revealed good numbers of waterfowl and gulls typical of this little urban duck pond in the winter.

Two duck butts in the middle of the pond stood out because of their large size. They turned out to be Tundra Swans, the first I have seen at this park.

Of course, every visit to Westmoreland requires a quick scan of the gull flock.

Ring-billed Gull

Herring Gull

Thayer’s Gull

Gadwalls don’t sport a lot of color, but are lovely little ducks.

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Here are a few gulls in their second plumage cycle (often referred to as their second year, but that is not always the case). The first two birds are four-cycle gulls. On a four-cycle gull, the second cycle looks much like the first, but the mantle feathers are coming in gray.


Western Gull, second cycle.  Note the blackish primaries and tail, the dark gray mantle, the heavy bill, and the fairly extensive mottling on the underparts.


Herring Gull, second cycle.  Note the pale iris and the slender pinkish bill with the black tip.

Three-cycle gulls skip the all-brown phase seen on young four-cycle gulls. (So a first cycle Ring-billed Gull has a gray mantle like a second cycle Herring Gull.) The second cycle on a three-cycle gull shows a gray mantle and wing coverts, but the primaries lack the white tips and mirrors seen on an adult.


Ring-billed Gull, second cycle.   Note the sloping forehead, pale eye, yellow bill with dark near the tip, fine streaking on face, and crisp scaly pattern on breast and sides.


Mew gull, second cycle.  Note round head and very thin bill.

 

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Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis) are common winter visitors throughout western Oregon. They prefer fresh water environments, so you find them more often at inland sites and in estuaries than you do on the beach. They breed in eastern Oregon and along the Columbia River.


This is a first cycle Ring-billed. Unlike the larger species that take four years to reach maturity, Ring-billed Gulls are a three-year gull, so first cycle birds already show gray on the mantle. Note how far the wing-tips extend beyond the tail.


First cycle Ring-billed Gull


This is a typical adult Ring-billed Gull showing the clear dark band on the bill, which gives the  species its name. Note the yellow legs, pale iris, and the fine streaking on the head in winter.


This individual has unusually heavy markings on the face and crown.


At close range you can see the red orbital ring and some red at the gape.

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Portland’s Westmoreland Park is a great place to find a variety of gull species during winter. Seven species and one hybrid are regular, and there is always the possibility of something more unusual showing up.

california
California Gull:  medium-gray mantle, long dark wingtips that extend well beyond the tail, long straight bill with both red and black gonydeal spots, yellowish legs and feet with blue-gray cast.

ring-billed
Ring-billed Gull:  smaller size, neat black ring around bill, long dark wingtips, yellow legs and feet.
ring-billed-tucked
Here’s the Ring-billed Gull at rest. Note the fine streaking on the head and the red orbital ring.

mew-gull
Mew Gull: petite yellow bill, round head, long wing extension. These small gulls will mix with the Ring-billed flock, but generally don’t mix with the larger gulls.

glaucous-winged
Glaucous-winged Gull:  Note the lack of contrast on this bird. The short wingtips are the same color as the mantle. The head and upper breast are covered with an even blurry mottling. The only parts that don’t blend in are the pink legs and feet.

western
Western Gull:  large size, dark gray mantle, short black wingtips, never any marks on the head – even in winter. This species is much more common on the coast, but a few make it in to the Willamette Valley in winter.

olympic-gull
Western Gull X Glaucous-winged Gull hybrid (Olympic Gull):  an even blending of characteristics of both parent species. The mantle is darker than a pure GW, but Westerns never show this much mottling on the head and neck.  The wingtips are dark, but not actually black. You can tell this is a third cycle individual by the tiny bit of black on the tail and by the odd pattern on the bill. These hybrids show a great deal of variation, and are often the most numerous gulls in the area.

herring
Herring Gull:  sloping forehead, pale eye, bill not too thick, black wingtips that extend beyond the tail.

thayers
Thayer’s Gull:  rounded forehead, thin bill, dark eye (usually, not always),  long black wingtips with much more white on the underside.

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Schoodic Point is part of Acadia National Park in Maine. It is located on the mainland, away from the big crowds that visit the more popular Mount Desert Island. There are nice patches of boreal forest and shrubby habitat, but on a clear day the highlight of the area is the rocky shore. There is ample area to sit on a big rock and watch the seabirds fly by. On the morning I took these photos, I also enjoyed seeing Harbor Porpoises and Harbor Seals.


Common Tern


Common Eiders, in their rather scruffy summer molt.


Herring and Ring-billed Gulls, two species that I can find at home, but nice to see them on the “other” coast, too.


Great Black-backed Gull. These monsters are the largest gull species in North America, dwarfing the Western Gulls of the Pacific.

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