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Glauc or "Nelson’s"

January 28, 2008

Update- Well that was fast. I posted the sighting to the listserve and a few birders whose skills I have a lot of respect for have confirmed my initial thought. The bird is definitively Glaucous. So, that’s nice. Dumpster diving pays off.

This bird was seen at the Wake County landfill on Durant Road on 1/28. I’m fairly certain that it is a 1st year Glaucous Gull but as I have no experience with the species I’m not sure if I’ve ruled out “Nelson’s” Gull (Herring/Glaucous hybird). My impression was of a very bulky bird, especially in the head and neck, even more so that the Herring Gulls around it. In fact, it “appeared” much larger than those birds even though side by side its size was comparable.

As you can see, the bird is very pale with little brown wash, consistent with what Howell and Dunn note for late winter Glaucous. They can get really bleached out late in the cycle (edit to add: though apparently not quite this early, this bird was still very pale though). The bird doesn’t at all appear to match their photos of “Nelson’s”. I didn’t see the wingtips as well as I would have liked (I lost the bird for a short time in a whirling flock of Ring-bills). When I refound it it was settling on the ground facing away from me partially obscured. I didn’t note any brown in the primaries or tail, though that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. You can see the primaries better in the second pic.

I currently feel comfortable calling this bird a Glaucous Gull, but if someone with more experience is able to show me I’ve erred, I’d love to hear why. Please feel free to comment.

  1. Jochen permalink
    January 28, 2008 1:09 pm

    I don’t see any feature on your bird that would point to a hybrid. Sure, we always have to be skeptical and take a second and third critical look, but in your case, I’d say it is quite an obvious call for Glaucous … and a nice bird.

  2. January 28, 2008 1:20 pm

    Thanks Jochen. Sibley’s illustrations in his guide show the two birds much closer than the photos bear out in the Howell/Dunn book. I had Sibley with me which is what originally caused me to pause.

    After looking at the photos I feel fine about calling it a Glaucous.

  3. Patrick Belardo permalink
    January 28, 2008 2:15 pm

    Nice! I don’t have a whole lot of white-winged gull experience to go by, but this bird definitely shows the flat-headed look of a Glaucous.

  4. Greg permalink
    January 28, 2008 3:02 pm

    Great bird! Congratulations!

  5. SNIDERMAN permalink
    January 28, 2008 4:27 pm

    uh… ring-billed, ah wait…

    Those guys used to fly over the water facility and dump… and make the beach t-shirts true in the apt complex lot. Hard to ID birds when you’re shielding your eyes and mouth while running in for cover.


    So… well done.

  6. slybird permalink
    January 28, 2008 4:32 pm

    Certainly looks Glaucous to me. Nice bird. Do you get the white-wings very much down your way?

  7. January 28, 2008 4:44 pm


    They’re rare but regular on the coast. Inland though, not so much.

    It’s no Slaty-backed but I’ll take it. : )

  8. noflickster permalink
    January 28, 2008 6:07 pm

    Nice find! For what it’s worth, I’m also in the camp that agrees with Glaucous. I’m still semi-trying to find white-winged gulls this year, and yesterday’s reports of a Ross’ Gull at Niagara got my mind started on a road trip for a frenzy of gull watching. If only Niagara was as close as the nearest landfill.


  9. slybird permalink
    January 28, 2008 10:46 pm

    Just you guys wait… if the Niagara Ross’s sticks around till the weekend I’ll have my second life gull just a few weeks into the new year. Life gulls are getting hard to come by for someone who grew up birding Niagara.


    ~ Nick

  10. slybird permalink
    January 28, 2008 10:48 pm

    Here you go N8…
    Chris Wood just found a first cycle Nelson’s while looking for our Slaty-backed:

  11. January 28, 2008 10:59 pm

    Thanks Nick. Those pics just emphasize that Nelson’s was not really even a question with this bird.

    Sibley’s drawing is really far too pale.

  12. Corey permalink
    January 28, 2008 11:09 pm

    Glaucous looks fine to me, but I’m mostly commenting to mention that I can’t even get away from the Ross’s Gull in New York that I can’t chase on a blog based in North Carolina!


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