Monday, January 05, 2009

Iceland Gull

My local patch, Donaldson Park, tends to have the same set of 25-30 species each time I walk there. Since the species set is so predictable, I try to make it interesting for myself mainly by keeping track of the numbers. Yesterday it had a few "rarities": a Snow Goose, a Pied-billed Grebe, and a Common Goldeneye. Today, though, I found a life bird there.

The life bird in question was a first-cycle Iceland Gull. I saw it near dusk, in a flock of several hundred Herring and Ring-billed Gulls in the pond on the east (downstream) end of the park. I was able to view it for several minutes at relatively close range before it took off with the rest of the flock.

The Iceland Gull was close in size to nearby Herring Gulls, but perhaps slightly smaller; it was definitely larger than the Ring-billed Gulls. It was definitely not large or massive enough for Glaucous or Glaucous-winged Gulls. It had a small, thin, mostly dark bill, and its eye was noticeably dark. Its feathers were almost entirely white, so that it stuck out like a sore thumb among the dark-winged gulls. There was some dirty brownish speckling or shading on the wings (particularly the flight feathers) and on the belly. The mantle had a hint of light gray shading or speckling, which was only noticeable at certain angles.

I did not see where it went, but almost all the gulls seemed to be headed for some roosting point downstream. There was a steady stream of gulls passing overhead in the same direction while I was looking at the Iceland Gull. It may well turn up at Donaldson Park again or at another nearby location.