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Monday, January 25, 2010

Iceland Gull

Iceland Gull, adult

When we went to see the Ivory Gull in Provincetown, MA, we had a double treat. We also found an Iceland Gull. While not quite as rare as an Ivory Gull here, it's a beautiful bird. We were scanning a large flock of gulls and this pale gull stood out. When you're a birder in New England in winter, you're always on the lookout for very white gulls, they may be Iceland, or the larger Glaucous Gull.

Iceland Gulls breed in the Canadian high Arctic on cliffs, and sometimes go farther south along the Atlantic Coast in winter. In North America, the subspecies mainly is kumlieni, and sometimes called "Kumlien's Gull."

The Iceland Gull adult has a pale gray back and wings. The slightly darker gray marks are variable on 1-5 of the outermost primaries, usually the outermost primary tends to have extensive white at the tip. You can see the slightly darker gray on the wing tips in the above flight photos. In winter plumage, the adult usually has brownish streaking on the head, but this bird does not.

Birder's carefully look at Iceland Gulls to distinguish them from the somewhat similar looking Thayer's Gull, which also breeds in the high Arctic west of the Iceland Gull, and winters mainly on the West Coast and sometimes inland. It rarely can occur on the East Coast in winter. Thayer's Gull adult has a darker back and black or dark gray on the wing tips, which have large white spots on the tips. Some authorities think Iceland and Thayer's Gull are really the same species.


amy barbe said...

Today on Georgia's Birders Online there are reports of an Ivory Gull at West Point Dam. Exciting!

amy barbe said...

Unfortunately the Ivory Gull in GA died on Friday, January 28th. As far as I know no necropsy results have been released. Birdwatchers said it was lethargic on Thursday and on Friday a DNR employee was able to pick it up; it perished before a rehabber could intervene.

Lillian Stokes said...

We heard about the Ivory Gull in GA dying. That is so sad. It flew all the way down here. Ivory Gulls are in peril and listed as Endangered now in Canada, so tough to loose even one.