Monday, May 30, 2011

Bird a Day: Ring-billed Gull

This is my last bird a day, Karen will be finishing the month out tomorrow for me.  It has been fun finding all these birds and sharing them with you this month.  It was a lot of work but it got me out and taking pictures I otherwise wouldn't have been able to get.  Thanks so much for reading along all month.  :)

A common visitor in the winter but less so this time of year is the Herring Gull.  These birds spend the winter in Louisville but fly to the arctic to breed.  This bird must be getting a late start to its migration.  The Herring Gull is a part of a complex of large, white-headed gulls that are spread across the northern hemisphere.  Some people consider this complex all one species while others recognize 10 or more distinct species.  The discrepancy comes from their tendency to interbreed and intermediate variations between the recognized species.   

Ring-billed Gull

Identification of gulls is notoriously difficult.  Gulls go through several plumages as they age and look different from one year to the next.  Add on top of that the similarities already seen between species and it can be quite hard to tell them apart.  The Herring Gull above looks to be an adult bird based on the bright white and uniform gray in the plumage.  Younger birds are more mottled and "dirty" looking than adults.  Herring Gulls are medium sized gulls and are larger than the similar Ring-billed Gull.  They also differ in that the Herring Gull has a red spot on the tip of the bill and the Ring-billed has a solid black bar on the tip of its bill.


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