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Checklist S31038561

Black Rush Lake WPA, Lyon County, Minnesota, US ( Map ) ( Hotspot )
Date and Effort
Mon Aug 08, 2016 6:30 PM
Party Size:
2 hour(s)
Garrett Wee
5 species (+1 other taxa) total

Bird was previously found by Roger Schroeder. Monday August 8th I had received a notification that there was a Black-headed Gull present at the Lyon County Landfill, which is right adjacent to Black Rush WPA. The landfill/WPA his historically held large numbers of gulls following the breeding season. I arrived at the landfill around 6:45 pm and had found that some of the gulls were sitting on the water and the others were roosting on top of the landfill hill. The gulls mainly consisted of Franklin's Gulls with some Ring-billed Gulls, none other species were found other than the Black-headed Gull. The gulls have a pattern where they move from the water and then back to the landfill and will rotate constantly. After over an hour of searching through my spotting scope, I witnessed a large group Franklins gradually and intermittently fly up from the hill at the landfill. After the gulls cleared I found the Black-headed Gull (BHGU) standing next to a few first year Ring-billed Gulls, the BHGU was smaller than the Ring-billed gulls although it was relatively large compared to the Franklins gulls and the size overall was more or less that of an oversized Bonaparte's Gull. For lack of better comparison, I would describe the BHGU as being very similar in size to that of a Laughing Gull in comparison with the Franklins Gulls when I had observed both (LAGU & FRGU) adjacent to one another in Louisiana. Despite the BHGU being larger than the Franklins Gulls, it appeared much more delicate looking in comparison with the franklins gulls. The bird then proceeded to take flight following after the Franklins gulls, the bird revealed a wing pattern that was quite unique to me, showing the upper side of the wings with a thin black strip running from the outer primary to the approximate and believed to be the P5-P6 feathers. As the bird continued to fly I saw that the got some brief looks at the underside of the wing as well showing a darker coloration running from the outer primaries to the coverts. I found this wing pattern to be interesting and was one of the main features that got most of my attention during the observation. The bird then left the view of the scope and disappeared behind the landfill hill and wasn't seen the rest of the night until others rediscovered the bird almost immediately in the morning. Following the observation I made a few sketches to record what I saw, I referenced a few sources to further verify my sighting.
I then saw the bird once again Wednesday evening, August 10th briefly in flight flying over the landfill then disappeared behind the hill. Between the 8th-10th of August there has been a number of observers who have seen this gull. As interesting as it is, I spoke with some experts on this bird agreed that the plumage is abnormally pale, John Richardson has had extensive experience with BHGU and was also an observer of this bird and agreed to it's abnormal plumage as well.

© Garrett Wee

Bird sitting on the water, image by Nolan Meyer. August 9th

© Garrett Wee

Sketches made upon observing the bird the evening of August 8th.

© Garrett Wee

gull sp.

Black-headed gull comments continued here:
--Similar species:
Bonaparte's Gull: The Bonapartes Gull being superficially similar to Black-headed Gull in all respects, yet the BHGU observed had a very "bloody" red bill that isn't a trait of Bonaparte's Gull at any age. The BHGU was also very pale, to a point where it was even paler than most BHGU. Which the Bonapartes Gull tends to be darker in all ages compared to BHGU. I did find one source from eBird that shows a very pale BHGU found in Quebec, August 12, 2014. that superficially resembles the bird observed at Black Rush/Lyon Co. Landfill. Follow this link to see the gull found in Quebec:
The main idea from this similar bird found in Quebec being, not every bird is textbook and will resemble the bird right from a field guide, which myself, along with many others observed firsthand. In addition, the Bonapartes Gull was eliminated due to the different wing pattern and size, as I noted earlier, I found that it was interesting that the wing pattern was different on both sides of the wing with more of a darker coloration underneath the wing and a strip of blackish color on the upper wing, unlike that found on a Bonapartes Gull. I noted this in the sketch and due to the differentiation of color on the wing created a fair amount of contrast, although after viewing the bird the second time on August 10th with better lighting my sketches exaggerate the contrast a little, it wasn't quite as intense as I originally thought. My first observation (8th) was also much later in the day and poor lighting could have contributed to this. In addition the size of this bird essentially eliminated all other possibilities, with many thousands of Franklins Gulls around, it was almost impossible to see this gull without there being a Franklins Gull in view. The BHGU was slightly larger than the Franklins Gulls with a longer wingspan and in my experience Franklins Gulls are slightly larger yet than a Bonapartes. With Ring-billed Gulls around it was said that the BHGU was an intermediate size between the Franklins Gulls and Ring-billed Gulls.


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