American Birding Podcast



#ABArare – Swallow-tailed Gull – Washington

On August 31, 2017, Ryan Merrill discovered an ABA Code 5 Swallow-tailed Gull, an adult bird, at Carkeek Park in Seattle, Washington. Pending acceptance this is a 3rd record for the ABA Area, and the 1st for Washington.

Photo: Ryan Merrill

Carkeek Park is in northwest Seattle. Birders can enter from 3rd Avenue NW at 110th Street, which will turn into NW Carkeek Park Road. You’ll go downhill around several bends on that road. Near the lowest point, there’s a three-way intersection with stop signs. Turn left (west) into the park. The road forms a loop, with the westernmost part of the loop being where birders will want to park. There’s a foot bridge over the railroad tracks which takes you to the beach. The gull has been hanging around the creek mouth about 100 yards south of the bridge, loafing with a flock of California Gulls, and has been showing well for birders throughout the morning of the 31st.

Swallow-tailed Gull is an unusual, mostly pelagic, gull that breeds almost exclusively on the Galapagos Islands. It has been recorded in the ABA Area twice before, both in California–Monterey County (1985) and Marin County (1996), the latter on a pelagic trip. In Rare Birds of North America, Steve Howell notes that the part of western South America affected by the Humboldt Current is prone to periodic food web crashes that can cause seabirds to disperse widely.