Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mystery Gull at Tempe Town Lake

Photo by Jeff Stemshorn, Tempe Town Lake
Pedestrian Bridge, Nov. 25th, 2011.

For most of us ALL gulls are a mystery when it comes to them.  As someone who spent their childhood near the ocean in southern California, seagulls were our nemeses on the school playground and on the beach - randomly bombing us with guano as they flew off with our lunches, so I tend to avoid them altogether.

But on November 25th while birding the Tempe Town Lake Pedestrian Bridge, I spotted a single bright white bird floating amid a flock of Ruddy Ducks on the lake.  When it took to the sky we could see it was a gull, but what kind?  Is it a Western Gull, or a Ring-billed Gull in non-breeding plumage, or a California Gull in winter plumage... or something else? 

Anyone want to venture a guess as to what type of gull this is?

*** Update as of Dec. 1st ***

Suprisingly, the best ID so far of the Mystery Gull has come from the least experienced birder, my friend Don Price, an avid fisherman:

"Yes. I know this gull! His name is Richard."  Don went on to say  - "Well, I guess you’d say what can make me feel this way? My gull, my gull, my gull… talkin’ ‘bout my gull."

Pure genious.


  1. This is a second-cycle Ring-billed Gull. Note the long bill and the extensive black on the undersurface of the primaries.
    It's a neat set of pictures! I talk about this plumage in a talk I wrote a while ago called "Sorry, My Mistake," about common identification errors and what I've learned from them.

  2. Thanks Rick! There were lots of suggestions as to which gull it was - second winter Mew Gull, first or second winter Franklin's Gull, Western Gull, etc.. But you, Mark Larson, Diana Herron, Myron Scott, and Pete Moulton have all concluded that it is a second-winter Ring-Billed. Thank you to all who helped in identifying the mystery gull!


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