Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

tags: , , , ,

[Mystery bird] California Gull, Larus californicus, photographed on Antelope Island Causeway and State Park of the Great Salt Lake and Northern Wasatch Mountains near Salt Lake City, Utah. [I will identify this bird for you in 48 hours]

Image: Dave Rintoul, 13 May 2005 [larger view].

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.

Review all mystery birds to date.

Comments

  1. #1 Emmy
    December 30, 2009

    Is it a California Gull?

    - white wing tips

    - gray back

    - possible black ring around bill

  2. #2 David Hilmy
    December 30, 2009

    Looks like the hint of a black ring and redspot on the bill (more easily seen when enlarging the bird’s reflection), white spots on the black wingtips, medium gray mantle, and the hint of greenish-yellow in the legs which all point to Emmy’s ID and the State bird of Utah (something to do with pioneering Mormons!)… Herring is is eliminated (although some have been recorded having both a black ring and red spot on the bill) due to leg color whih should be pinkish and have the “forehead” we discussed a couple of weeks ago; the Ring-billed would show a lighter gray and does not have the red spot, as would the Mew (out of range?); and Thayer’s (out of range) would show less black on the wingtips and would have pink legs

  3. #3 John Callender
    December 30, 2009

    I’m going with California Gull as well. There seems to be a dark ring with a red spot on the bill, the mantle appears to be approximately the right shade, and the inland-in-the-West location has California Gull written all over it.

  4. #4 zoo713
    December 30, 2009

    I agree with California Gull – the white ‘fingertip’ and stripe on the wings is very distinctive. The dark eyes and ‘half rings’ of red and black seem to clinch it.

  5. #5 Susan
    December 30, 2009

    I’m convinced by the above observations: short head with black & red on the bill-tip. It looks like a California Gull to me.

    Having nothing else new to add, I’ll point out that it’s clearly not a (blown off course) Laughing Gull, because of the pure white head and evident lack of a sense of humor.

  6. #6 IBY
    December 30, 2009

    Heh, it reminds me of the movie Finding Nemo: “mine, mine, mine!”

  7. #7 Adrian
    December 30, 2009

    I think we have only two gulls to consider, Herring or California based on the structure and wing colour. I agree with David the head is too rounded for Herring and it has a “softer” look to the face so I’m going with the rest, California Gull.

  8. #8 blf
    December 31, 2009

    One of those things that, ah, flies. What are they called? Dinosaurs, or something like that… has feathers… teeth… beady eyes… no, no, not teeth, claws! That’s it, claws… still can’t think what the bloody critters are called.

  9. #9 Walter Jeffries
    December 31, 2009

    I can’t identify it but that is a gorgeous photo. That is how I fly in my dreams…

    Happy New Years,

    -Walter
    in Vermont

  10. #10 David Hilmy
    January 1, 2010

    as an aside, does everyone know why gulls such as the California above, as well as many other seabirds like Boobies, Shearwaters, Tropicbirds, Gannets, Terns, Pelicans, etc. have black wing tips?

  11. #11 blf
    January 2, 2010

    [D]oes everyone know why [… many] seabirds […] have black wing tips?

    Does everyone know? I certainly don’t, and you apparently don’t. Sorry, I’ll stop being overly-pedantic now…

    Camouflage is my first guess, as it breaks up the otherwise uniform(-ish) (wing-)colour scheme. I’m not an expert, but it strikes me as a form of countershading.

  12. #12 David Hilmy
    January 2, 2010

    @blf, “pedantic” would not be my choice of adjective- perhaps you strayed onto the wrong site- Pharyngulation takes place here.

    In actual fact, as several of us have been engaged in discussing pigmentation in recent posts, it was a lttle teaser…

    the melanin that colors wing tips black also strengthens them and as the flight feathers of these species are the ones most subject to wear and tear, the high concentrations of melanin granules (concentrations range from black down to browns and in the smallest concentrations, a yellowish color) provide the maximum strength (see 1, 2, and 3)…

    white feathers are the weakest and by comparison, increased wear was seen in an albino Greater Shearwater (Puffinus gravis), resulting in lower wing area, lower maneuverability, and slower speed than the normally pigmented shearwaters (4).

    1. Bonser, R. H. C. (1996). The mechanical properties of feather keratin. Journal of Zoology, London 239,477-484.

    2. Burtt, E. H., Jr (1986). An analysis of physical, physiological and optical aspects of avian colouration with emphasis on wood-warblers. Ornithological Monographs 38, 1-26.

    3. Gill, F. B. (1995). Ornithology (ed. F. B. Gill), pp.65 -92. New York: W. H. Freeman and Co.

    4. Lee, D. S. and Grant, G. S. (1986). An albino greater shearwater: feather abrasion and flight energetics. Wilson Bulletin of Ornithology 98,488 -490.

  13. #13 David Hilmy
    January 2, 2010

    @blf, “pedantic” would not be my choice of adjective- perhaps you strayed onto the wrong site- Pharyngulation takes place elsewhere on scienceblogs…

    In actual fact, as several of us have been engaged in discussing pigmentation in recent posts, it was a lttle teaser…

    the melanin that colors wing tips black also strengthens them and as the flight feathers of these species are the ones most subject to wear and tear, the high concentrations of melanin granules (concentrations range from black down to browns and in the smallest concentrations, a yellowish color) provide the maximum strength (see 1, 2, and 3)…

    white feathers are the weakest and by comparison, increased wear was seen in an albino Greater Shearwater (Puffinus gravis), resulting in lower wing area, lower maneuverability, and slower speed than the normally pigmented shearwaters (4).

    1. Bonser, R. H. C. (1996). The mechanical properties of feather keratin. Journal of Zoology, London 239,477-484.

    2. Burtt, E. H., Jr (1986). An analysis of physical, physiological and optical aspects of avian colouration with emphasis on wood-warblers. Ornithological Monographs 38, 1-26.

    3. Gill, F. B. (1995). Ornithology (ed. F. B. Gill), pp.65 -92. New York: W. H. Freeman and Co.

    4. Lee, D. S. and Grant, G. S. (1986). An albino greater shearwater: feather abrasion and flight energetics. Wilson Bulletin of Ornithology 98,488 -490.

  14. #14 Maggie Moo
    January 2, 2010

    blf:

    and you apparently don’t. Sorry, I’ll stop being overly-pedantic now

    If you bothered to read some of his comments on other birds, I’m sure you’ll find that David does in fact know and asked the question to get people thinking, not to elicit sarcasm!

  15. #15 Maggie Moo
    January 3, 2010

    wtf, blf?

    Did it not occur to you that because this blog is subscribed to by many neophyte ornithologists that David’s question was attempting to elicit discussion and not sarcasm?