Regarding the bill of the Key West bird not matching any pictures of
Slaty-backed:  if you peruse photos on the Japanese gull site I posted a few
days ago, you will see that birds IDed as 4th winter Slaty-backed have bills
that vary from having a yellow tip, dusky subterminal band, and pinkish base
to birds showing a larger yellow tip, no subterminal band, and a pinkish
base.   This can be interpreted as the bill "maturing," that is, changing
from a subadult pattern to the adult pattern.

In particular, take a look at the bird in the upper left of the first
picture on this page:

That bird (IDed as probably 4th winter) has a bill that is *very* similar in
pattern to photo 1 of the KW bird.
Also, the plumage of the Key West bird seems to indicate 3rd summer molting
into 4th winter (=adult).

David Wright
Miami Shores

on 9/25/02 4:05 PM, Larry at [log in to unmask] wrote:

> I saw the Slaty-Backed Gull yesterday with Brian Rapoza on Higg's Beach in
> Key West.  I have seen only one Slaty-Backed Gull in Alaska a few years ago,
> I certainly don't have any more experience with them than one sighting.  I
> have and Brian as well, have seen most of the more common large gulls in the
> U.S. including all of the dark backed gulls that could be similar to
> Slaty-Backed Gull.
> This gull is very cooperative and easy to approach, this makes studying the
> field marks very easy.  Our guess on the age and sex of the bird are as
> follows: this looks to be a male bird that is a 3rd winter bird.
> We ruled out Western Gull because of:
> 1.  The lighter gray underside of the primaries as opposed to dark on a
> Western Gull
> 2.  White tipped primaries on the top of the wing, followed by black and
> then a white stripe separating the dark mantle color.
> 3.  Western Gull has a cleaner white head in the winter, Slaty-Backed Gull
> has brownish streaking on head and neck in winter.
> We ruled out Great-Black Backed Gull because:
> 1.  This bird is not large enough 30" for Great Black-Backed 25" for
> Slaty-backed Gull.
> 2.  Not dark enough to be a Great-Black Backed.
> These two things easily rule out Great-Black Backed Gull.
> We ruled out Lesser Black- Backed Gull because:
> 1.  Yellow legs would be on a bird this age, this bird has dark pinkish
> legs.
> No reason to look at this species any farther.
> Kelp Gull, Band-tailed Gull, Black-tail Gull also have yellow legs.
> We could not find any pictures that have a bird with this exact type of bill
> although in Peter Harrison's " Seabirds " he describes a third winter bird
> with a bill like this bird.  Bill pinkish-yellow with dusky sub-terminal
> band.
> The white trailing edge of this bird is very worn, this makes looking at
> this as a field mark pretty poor.  The white tertials are also worn but
> visible.
> The bill on this bird appears to be large but maybe not too large for a male
> bird.  Some literature describes the bill as relatively slender as compared
> to large Western and Glaucous-winged Gulls.
> The base of the bill is pinkish followed by a dusky band (lower and upper
> mandible) and than by a yellow tip.  It seems to have a pretty large
> gonydeal angle which may be ok for this species, especially if it is a male.
> We believe that this bird is an excellent candidate for Florida's first
> The big question is:
> Why haven't there been any other birders flocking to Key West to see it?
> Where are you Wes?
> Directions:
> 1. As you enter Key West from US1 you come to a T-intersection.
> 2. Turn left at the T-intersection and follow the road past the Key West
> Airport.
> 3. Continue past the airport driving by are some beach areas on your left,
> soon the road will turn right.
> 4. After making the right turn look on your left for Atlantic Blvd.
> 5. Turn left here and go about half a mile or so. look on your left for a
> beach area with a painted restroom and picnic tables.
> 6. Casa Marina Resort Hotel will be straight ahead at the end of the road
> just as the road turns right.
> 7. You don't have to go this far, park at the beach and look for the gull
> here.
> We first had the gull on the fishing pier just east of Higg's Beach, it than
> flew to Higg's Beach and landed amongst the Laughing Gulls.  Check the beach
> first and then walk over to the pier and check the pier railings and light
> poles.  It also landed at the end of the pier where you could not see it
> unless you walked to the end of the pier.
> Larry Manfredi
> Homestead, Fl.
> E-mail: [log in to unmask]
> P.S. I shot about 3 rolls of film which should be ready by tomorrow.

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