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QUIZ GULL #13 (with answer below)



Hints: no hints

ANSWER: The correct answer is a leucistic Mew Gull, although Common Gull is a reasonable answer as well.

This bird is white. This immediately reduces our choices to the white-winged gulls—Iceland, Glaucous, Ross’s, and Ivory. Focusing on the plumage, there is no hint of any markings—no blue-gray mantle, no coffee-colored checking or barring, nothing. Some field guides show sub-adult Iceland and Glaucous as all-white, but even with fading this level of whiteness is hard to achieve. The only gull that is truly pure white is the adult Ivory Gull. However, the bill and leg color are wrong for that species. Nothing matches. The rule here is that any bird that appears pure white should arouse our suspicions about a possible albino bird.

Assuming we have a leucistic bird (lacking pigmentation on the feathers but not the eye, bill, and legs), all we can go on is structure and, in this case, we can also consider bare part colors. This puts all species back into play. Structurally, the bird is rather petite and with a small bill. Glaucous and all large gulls are clearly out. In fact, the bill is even small for Iceland Gull. The small dove-like head, very small bill, and small size are typical of Mew and Common Gull. Kamchatka Gull is a another possibility to bear in mind, although they are slightly larger. The bill and leg colors are fine for first-year Mew and Common Gull. First year Kamchatka reportedly has a more sharply-demarcated two-toned bill.

Of course, the context of the photo helps a lot. This bird was photographed November 25, 2003 in Ventura, California by Don DesJardin. As you can see by the answers, this one didn't fool most people.

GUESS # OF VOTES
Mew or Common Gull 15 (60% correct)
Iceland Gull 4
Ivory Gull 3
Glaucous Gull 2
Iceland x Ring-billed Gull 1