Sunday, 22 April 2012

Jersey Shore American Herring Gulls

At exactly this time last year I was on the other side of the pond enjoying the incoming Spring migrants at Cape May, NJ. Whilst there I ventured up to Brigantine Light hoping for lingering Harlequins. After good views of a fine drake Harlequin along with Bufflehead, Black & Surf Scoter, dresseri Eider, L-t Duck etc I turned my attention to the local gull flock with the aim of improving my smithsonianus knowledge.

With migration currently at a relatively slow pace here and gulling taking a back seat after winter I thought I'd take the chance to post some of my photos. A couple of things that I noted in particular were the considerable plumage variation in younger birds (as opposed to all being the 'classic' dark-bodied, pale-headed birds we look for here) and the extensive coverts/tertials wear on several birds. All photos were taken in RAW format but, apart from adding 3 degrees of sharpness in the Canon software, I haven't altered any colours etc. I hope you find these as interesting/useful as I did (but apologies if not!).

Note the yellowish tinge to the legs on the birds above and below

The dark tertials and striking bill pattern stood out on this 5cy(?) bird

No mistaking this monster (4cy, or advanced 3cy?)

But what about these? Note the worn plumage, giving these birds a much paler appearance

Retained juvenile scapulars on some of these 2cy birds perhaps indicates a more northerly origin? (considering a similar moult strategy in argentatus)

Flight view showing the characteristic upper tail pattern/plumage and dark primaries/secondaries. Note the retained scaps on the right hand bird (northerner?)

Another very worn bird, although dark tertials still evident

After discussing with local birders I gathered that the very dark plumage of the small left-hand 2cy bird is likely to indicate origin from a southern population

One from Cape May Point to show the undertail coverts/underpart plumage (albeit in stronger light than the others)


  1. Great post Chris. I love the tails on those birds in flight .

  2. Nice one Chris. John R is loving this!
    Amazing just how variable these beasts can be!