Sunday, October 3, 2021

Heermann’s Gull

On Erika’s and my 1 October 2021 trip to the Billy Frank Jr National Wildlife Refuge, we met another birder who pointed out a dark slaty gull out on the estuary mud flats. “It looks like an immature Heermann’s Gull,” commented our companion, “what with its pale forehead and white eye-ring.” We concurred with his identification. That this gull was a new county bird for us is kind of strange, since the species is common along the northern reaches of Puget Sound and along the Pacific Coast—eBird, however, only shows some dozen records for the very south end of Puget Sound. One reason for this distribution is that most Heermann’s Gulls breed in the Gulf of California (a few breed along the coast of southern California and northwestern Mexico), dispersing after nesting north as far as southwestern British Columbia. Then, in the spring, they migrate back south. This gull is named after Adolphus Lewis Heermann, a surgeon-naturalist who studied western birds in the 1800s. (While hunting birds, he died of a self-inflicted gun wound in 1865. He did suffer, however, from severe syphilis complications in his old age (Gruson 1972).)

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