#ABArare - Kelp Gull - Ontario
by Nate Swick
On September 7, Alan Wormington discovered an unusual dark-mantled gull at Wheatley Harbour, Ontario. Photos were obtained yesterday evening, and subsequent discussion confirmed that the bird in question is an ABA Code 4 Kelp Gull, Larus dominicanus, a first provincial record and a first record for Canada pending acceptance. This comes only a few weeks after the last provincial first, last month's Thick-billed Kingbird at Presqu'ile Provincial Park.
Wheatley Harbour is located just east of Point Pelee (in fact, it's within the Point Pelee CBC circle). The nearest major city is Detroit, Michigan, just over an hour to the west. From Windsor, on the Ontario side of the border, birders would take ON-3, before turning right on Talbot Rd just past the town of Leamington.
Also of note, Wheatley Harbour may legitimately be considered the Gull Capital of the World, as Kelp Gull makes a total of 18 gull species recorded at the site.
per Bill Maynard's PEEPs, Kelp Gull is resident in South America, southern Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. The first record for the ABA Area was a bird found on the Chandeleur Islands, Louisiana, in 1989 where it was subsequently found breeding in 1990. By 2004 all dark-mantled gulls on the Chandeleur Islands were hybrids or backcrosses with American Herring Gull. The Chandeleurs were hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and since then Kelp Gull records in North American have been extremely few and far between.
Kelp Gull is expanding world-wide, especially in South America where it is now breeding in Ecuador and surveys have shown significant population increases in Argentina over the past decades. Population expansion has also been recorded in South Africa. Australia was only recently colonized by Kelp Gulls during the past century, with the first records in 1943 and breeding being recorded in 1958. Since then, the species has rapidly expanded its range and increased in abundance. Kelp Gulls have also been reported from Trinidad and Barbados (interestingly these were birds from the African population).
Besides Louisiana, records of Kelp Gull in the ABA Area include accounts from Indiana (1996), Colorado (2003), Florida (2011), Texas (1996, 1997, 2008), and Maryland from 1998 to 2005; the latter bird the famous "Shrimpy", quite possibly the most-seen individual bird in American birding history.