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    Birding Photo Quiz: Let’s Work It Out Together (Part 2 of 2)

    Here is the second of two quiz photos appearing on p. 72 of the November 2012 issue of Birding magazine:

    12-6-17-02 [gulls]

    I see five birds in the image. What are they?

    First, we need to agree on who’s who. We’ll call the three dark-backed birds, left to right, Birds #1, #2, and #3. We’ll call the paler-backed bird, rear right, more-or-less facing us, Bird #4. And we’ll call that bit of a bird’s head, front right, Bird #5.

    These birds were photographed at Cape May, New Jersey, in September.

    Here’s something that’s both a challenge and a subtle clue: Where was Bird #3 hatched?

    Don’t just rattle off a bunch of answers. Tell us, please, how you arrived at your answers. I’m looking forward to the learning experience!

     

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    Ted Floyd

    Ted Floyd

    Ted Floyd is the Editor of Birding magazine, and he is broadly involved in other programs and initiatives of the ABA. He is the author of more than 100 magazine and journal articles, and has written four recent books, including an ABA title, the ABA Guide to Birds of Colorado. Floyd is a frequent speaker at birding festivals and state ornithological society meetings, and he has served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations. Mainly, he listens to birds at night.
    Ted Floyd

    Latest posts by Ted Floyd (see all)

    • http://www.natureali.org Ali Sheehey

      #1. Great Black-backed Gull – dark mantle, pink legs
      #2. Great Black-backed Gull – dark mantle, pink legs
      #3. Lesser Black-backed Gull – dark mantle, smaller than neighbor, light eye, yellow legs. Hatched in Northern Europe.
      #5. Believe this is Herring Gull – light mantle, grayish pink legs.

    • Ted Floyd

      Thanks, Ali. You’re seeing more on Gull #5 than I am… :-)

      Back to #3, I agree, northern Europe. But where, more or less, in northern Europe?

    • http://profile.typepad.com/nicholasblock Nicholas Block

      Denmark, perhaps? :-)

    • Jan Jörgensen

      The same as above from letft to right GBBG + GBBG + LBBG + Herring

    • http://profile.typepad.com/nicholasblock Nicholas Block

      1. Great Black-backed Gull – large size (in addition to Ali’s reasons)
      2. see #1
      3. Lesser Black-backed Gull, intermedius subspecies (if that’s really a valid subspecies and not part of a cline) – smallish size, long wings, clean head, yellow legs, very dark mantle that’s about the same shade as the GBBGs
      4. Herring Gull – b/c it’s Cape May in September and it’s not a Ring-billed Gull (in additions to Ali’s reason)
      5. gull sp. :-)

    • anonymous

      I’m not really proud to admit this, but part of my evaluation of determining ID would depend on the “severity” of the circumstances or the stakes, if you will. For an online photo quiz, I would quickly name birds by first impression and then read the eventual answer. I would have to be REALLY curious to consult a resource. From the experience of birding for 10 years, living in the midwest and having been to Cape May as a birder one time in summer, I’d give what most people have answered for the names of the 1st 3 gulls: GBBG, GBBG, LBBG. Gull #4 is slightly suspicious to me since I know gull ID is difficult and that part of the photo is blurry, but I would go with Herring on first impression. I would not attempt an ID for gull #5 even as a first impression though it sure as hell seems like a gull. And I would not give a go at hatch location for #3.

      If I were actually there and saw the birds, and felt like IDing gulls, I would consult resources to make sure my first impressions were correct. If I was sure of ID, I would enter them with names into eBird. I would enter ones I couldn’t figure out as gull sp.

      That’s all I’m going to say for 5 birds in an online photo quiz :p Gulls are not my favorites at the present time.

    • Pim Wolf

      #1 GBBG
      #2 GBBG
      #3 LBBG, too dark for a standard graellsii, also the white tips to the primaries look too small for that group, even though these have nearly worn away. A bird this dark would likely be an intermedius. Where did it hatch? Your guess is as good as anybody’s. Judging by the number of LBBG’s that turn up on the Western side of the Atlantic it could have hatched in Canada.
      #4 Smith
      #5 bill colour points to either Smith or LBBG, in September this amount of head streaking would probably fit Smith better but would not exclude LBBG

    • Ted Floyd

      Raise your hand if you need clarification on Pim Wolf’s answer, viz., “Smith,” for #4… :-)

    • Judy Phoenix

      Yes – please, clarification.

    • Ted Floyd

      Hi, Judy. The long answer to your question is: See Paul Hess’s fine (and fun!) summary in the September 2012 issue of Birding, pp. 28-29.

      The short answer to your question is that most Herring Gulls in North America are different in various ways from Herring Gulls in Europe and Asia. These North American Herring Gulls are treated by the American Ornithologists’ Union as a subspecies, smithsonianus, of the Herring Gull; however, many ornithologists, especially those in Europe, believe that smithsonianus deserves full-species rank. Regardless of the bird’s taxonomic rank, it needs a name! The two names in widest use are “American Herring Gull” (sorry, Alan Wormington, I didn’t make up that name, and neither did any representative of the American [sic] Birding Association) and “Smithsonian Gull.” Alas, the name Smithsonian commemorates the United States National Museum. Ouch. OUCH! That hurt. Stop sticking me with Canadian voodoo needles, Alan.

    • Ted Floyd

      “#5 bill colour points to either Smith or LBBG, in September this amount of head streaking would probably fit Smith better but would not exclude LBBG”

      So bill color doesn’t point to Great Black-backed Gull? I’m not disagreeing; I just didn’t know about this distinction. Can you tell us more about bill color on Great Black-backed Gull vs. Lesser Black-backed and Smithsonian gulls?

    • Ted Floyd

      “A bird this dark would likely be an intermedius. Where did it hatch? Your guess is as good as anybody’s. Judging by the number of LBBG’s that turn up on the Western side of the Atlantic it could have hatched in Canada.”

      Lots of insight, and a bit of provocation, there from Pim Wolf!

      Lesser Black-backed Gull breeding in the ABA Area?? Could it be? I’ll say this: The January 2013 Birding features a major overview of the occurrence in North America of the Lesser Black-backed Gull; included in the treatment is the question of a recent expansion of the breeding range into North America. If you’re a gull nut–and I know many of you are–you do not want to miss the January 2013 Birding. Or, if you just like a good ornithological mystery story, the January 2013 issue is likewise up your alley.

      I should say that I’ve always been of the assumption that, if Lessers are breeding in North America, then they’re of the relatively light-mantled subspecies graellsii. If this bird is an intermedius that hatched in the ABA Area, that’s very cool, and weird.

    • Angus Wilson

      Ted, Is there actually an answer to the question of where the Lesser Black-backed Gull (#3) was hatched rather than continued speculation? Will the advertised article shed fresh light?

      I’m still hoping somebody will do the obvious experiment, namely color band a number of Lesser’s wintering in the US or Canada and see if any show up in breeding colonies in Greenland (or elsewhere)? Similar marking experiments in Europe and the former USSR have provided a great deal of information about the movements and origins of gulls as well as some surprises.

      As to the intermedius vs graellsi question, for years people have commented on the fact that a fair number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls observed in North America appear darker mantled (lacking the blue tone) than might be considered typical for graellsii, the expected subspecies to reach North America on a regular basis. The significance of darker-mantled birds in eastern North America is unclear, to me at least. That said, there is a sight record (published in Birding) from Long Island, NY of a banded Lesser from the Netherlands. I can’t remember whether this was considered to be an intermedius or undetermined. When it comes to individual birds, the lines get blurry. It’s my understanding that Lesser Black-backs observed in the western states also tend to be somewhat dark mantled, seeding the idea that these individuals might be from asiatic populations rather than Europe.

      Lastly, I’d consider bird #5 as ‘unidentifiable’, in the sense that there is probably too little information to make a prudent evaluation.Yes, this could be second American Herring Gull as suggested by others but can we be sure the dark marks aren’t just shadow rather than flecking?

    • Ted Floyd

      Hey, Angus. The final, “official” answers to this quiz appear in the January/February 2013 Birding, which, as soon as they remove the mountains of snow from New York, the mailman will be able to deliver to you.

      Thanks very much for this remark:

        “I’m still hoping somebody will do the obvious experiment, namely color band a number of Lesser’s wintering in the US or Canada and see if any show up in breeding colonies in Greenland (or elsewhere)? Similar marking experiments in Europe and the former USSR have provided a great deal of information about the movements and origins of gulls as well as some surprises.”

      As it turns out, Angus, there’s a bonus waiting for you in the January/February Birding. Along with Tom Johnson’s answers to this quiz photo, there’s a major feature on–wait for it–the origin of the burgeoning population in the ABA Area of Lesser Black-backed Gulls. Author is Amar Ayyash. Like you, Angus, Amar makes a plea in his article for a tracking program. It’s a fascinating matter, and Amar’s great article brings us up to date on the latest knowledge and understanding.

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