Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Black-headed Gull on the Anacostia River

My friend Peter Vankevich went canoeing on the Anacostia River this past Sunday and found a Black-headed Gull. It was standing on a dock at the Anacostia boathouse, across from Anacostia Park. The red legs made it stand out from the others since Laughing Gulls do not have red legs except in full adult breeding plumage.

This is clearly a hooded gull in winter plumage because a remnant of the hood is still visible behind the eye. It also appears to be an adult since there are no visible dark markings on the bird's tertials or upperwing coverts. The red legs and the dainty red bill with a dusky tip fit Black-headed Gull the best. The upperwing and underwing patterns seem to fit that identification as well.

This is a rare sighting for Washington, DC, where even Bonaparte's Gulls are pretty unusual. The only previous record of Black-headed Gull in eBird's database for DC is from 2004. The MD/DC Records Committee also has records of three previous sightings in the two decades before that.

Peter's Black-headed Gull was among thousands of Laughing Gulls, so it may be hard to find again. In my experience, flocks of gulls tend to wander around the Anacostia River corridor. If it is not present at the Anacostia boathouse, it may be at Hains Point or some other place nearby.

All photos are courtesy of Peter Vankevich.