Nifty Shades of Gray

The Cove, in Seaside, is unique on the northern Oregon coast for the cobbles and boulders that make up its beach. These gray stones regularly attract three species that are more difficult to find elsewhere; Heermann’s Gull, Surfbird, and Black Turnstone. The color of the stone, light gray when dry, dark gray when wet, match these birds so well that individuals can be hard to see if they are sitting still. Add some cloud cover and you have a nearly monochromatic scene of birds, stone, sea, and sky.

This Surfbird was calling loudly, perhaps uncomfortable being surrounded by Black Turnstones.

More Surfbirds and Black Turnstones

Heermann’s Gulls would be harder to see if they didn’t have that blood-red bill.

Heermann’s Gull with two Surfbirds

In breeding season, Heermann’s Gulls have white heads, but most birds acquire gray plumage on the head before they arrive in Oregon after breeding much farther south.

While I think adult Heermann’s are among the most beautiful gulls in North America, the first cycle birds are equally stunning in their smooth chocolate brown plumage. This is the first time in three years that I have seen a young Heermann’s Gull. The two years previous saw a near-total nesting failure for this species. Warmer ocean temperatures reduce the amount of food available to feed nesting seabirds.

young Heermann’s Gull stretching

adult Heermann’s enjoying a good roust

Sticking out like a sore thumb with his white head and breast is this Western Gull. Note the massive bill on this bird. Gull diversity will be increasing on the coast in the next few weeks, much to the delight of gull fans like me.

Happy autumn!

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