Sunday, January 8, 2012

Iceland Gull

Despite the warning from Eckert in A Birder's Guide to Minnesota that "paler Thayer's and darker Icelands appear similar, if not identical," Erika and I identified this gull, on the ice on the Minnesota River near Black Dog Lake, as an Iceland Gull. Keys to identification include the almost completely white underwings and extremely pale head and breast. Other birders have photographed adult Icelands in the same area.

Snell (2002), a gull expert, believes that Thayer's and Icelands are but one highly variable species. He notes that field marks broadly overlap. Not only are birds of extreme plumages found across their breeding range, pale and darker birds also breed freely with each other. Snell concludes, "
Based on this, I believe only 1 species should be recognized with all taxa placed under Iceland Gull." Adopting his recommendation would certainly make life easier for us birders!

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