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My Life’s Birds: #348

October 21, 2009

December 28, 1994 – Lake Springfield, Mo – When you think of gulls what do you think of? Hulking, brooding, white-headed food thieves, unrepentantly begging around a picnic table? A white shroud covering the back half of a Wal-Mart parking lot?  The bane of those who just want to enjoy a bag of popcorn on their day at the beach?  While that certainly could describe any of the ubiquitous and gregarious Larus gulls, the conventional “seagull” though they’re just as likely found at any body of water or garbage heap between the coasts as well, there’s a group of birds that likely resent the general reputation gulls have, legitimately in many cases, engendered.

Bonaparte's GullIt wasn’t that long ago that all gulls, with a few notable exceptions, were tossed together in the catch-all genus Larus, that of the greedy seagulls of common knowledge.  But recently those oddballs, these kinder, gentler, gulls were given a genus of their own, Chroicocephalus, consisting of slender-billed, delicate, tern like gulls that daintily pick food off the water’s surface rather than rip it out of a carcass.  The genus is represented in North America by one of my perennial favorites, the Bonaparte’s Gull, a regular winter resident across much of the United States and easily found at Lake Springfield, deftly picking at scraps near the fishing pier on those distinctive tricolored wings.

As common as they are, though, Bonies often hide special birds, European vagrants like Black-headed and Little Gulls, neither of which I’ve come across incidentally.  I guess that means I’ll have to keep closely watching the Bonaparte’s Gulls, so it’s fortunate for me they’re so appealing in their own right.  Not like those other gulls at all…

photo by jerryoldenettel via flickr


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