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Kelp vs. Great Black-Backed Gull


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Jun 2017 Pinellas co FL

I may have posted this previously, but I cannot find the post.  I had originally called it a Great Black-Backed Gull, but the ebird reviewer felt it was a Kelp Gull.  At some point after he contacted me, they dispatched people to the area where I photographed it, but could not locate it, so the reviewer suggested I count it as "Larus sp."

He (the gull not the reviewer :D) seemed exhausted and spent most of the time just sitting on the beach while throngs of other species milled about.  

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I am not sure, although I think both species are rare for your area so say the bird traveled to the wrong spot recently during migration ,that could be why he is tired.

i don’t think I am positive but don’t kelps have yellow legs and GBBG would have pinkish, unless this is weird lighting then, I’d say the legs look pinkish, so maybe GBBG?

i suggest waiting for the experts, though

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This is a very interesting gull, thanks for sharing! I would love to know more about your communication with the eBird reviewer. Did they say why they initially thought it was a Kelp Gull, and why they subsequently asked you to change the ID to Larus sp.? The caution exercised by the reviewer is understandable given the status of Kelp Gull anywhere in the U.S.

Preliminarily, this bird checks many of the boxes for Kelp Gull, but it is molting and appears to have old primaries. I am having trouble figuring out what is going on in the wingtips, which would be very helpful in sorting out Kelp Gull vs Great Black-backed Gull.

Additionally, do you have any other pictures of this bird? Any pics of it with its wings spread would be great and assist in ID...although I'm sure the eBird reviewer already asked you this.

References for Kelp Gull here and here.

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I don't have experience with Kelp Gull, so take this FWIW, but other than the rather dark back and dark primaries, what else would suggest that this is a Kelp Gull over a Great Black-backed Gull? The legs are a bit pale for what one would expect on a Kelp, and I don't really think that, particularly from one photo alone, there is anything particularly unreasonable about the mantle or primaries for a ratty GBBG. Obviously though, more photos would be good.

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3 hours ago, Benjamin said:

I don't have experience with Kelp Gull, so take this FWIW, but other than the rather dark back and dark primaries, what else would suggest that this is a Kelp Gull over a Great Black-backed Gull? The legs are a bit pale for what one would expect on a Kelp, and I don't really think that, particularly from one photo alone, there is anything particularly unreasonable about the mantle or primaries for a ratty GBBG. Obviously though, more photos would be good.

This is in all likelihood a GBBG. It's far more expected than a KEGU in Florida, and the argument for KEGU would clearly have to rule out all the reasons it's NOT a GBBG in addition to why it IS a KEGU. I don't find anything overwhelming for KEGU, but my comment about the boxes being checked for KEGU also means that the boxes fo GBBG are checked as well since they are so similar.

What threw me was the color of the legs and I thought I saw a small mirror on the outer primary at first glance. After giving it more thought, this bird is obviously a GBBG due to its molt timing. KEGU would have just finished its prebasic molt in June, and would not appear as this bird does. This bird has a molt strategy consistent with North American gulls such as GBBG.

I'm still curious as to what the eBird review saw/said that initially pointed them to KEGU.

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7/5/2017--Reviewer:  "Did you happen to get any other photos of this Gull?  There is discussion among several of us that this could potentially be a Kelp Gull, not a Great Black-backed Gull.  Either way it is a great find for June, but if it was the latter it would be the first ever Kelp Gull recorded in Pinellas County!  If you have any other pictures, please send them along, thanks!!!!"

me--Photos sent.

7/6/2017--"Thanks for the photos...I will let you know what we conclude!"

7/24/2017--Reviewer:  "Sorry it has taken SO long for me to respond about your gull photos.  I had sent the photos out to several top experts and some responded faster than others.  The response was mixed with most saying that it was "probably" a Kelp Gull but without a shot of its wings open, they couldn't be 100% and at least one person who thought it was a Great Black-backed Gull.  As I said before , neither of these species have ever been recorded in Pinellas during the month of June, so an awesome find!  For now I'd ask that you list the bird on Ebird simply as Gull sp. and add as many of the photos to the checklist as you can.  I plan to send the photos to FOSRC (Florida Ornithological Society Records Committee) to get their opinion.  I believe they convene twice a year to review sightings, so it may be some time before they get their opinion back.  I apologize that it's not a definitive answer yet, but I'm working on it. 🙂 Just wanted to keep you in the loop.   I am a volunteer regional data reviewer for eBird. My goal is to keep up with data submissions and try to ensure the accuracy of reports of rare and unusual species, as well as unusually high counts of common species."

3/16/2020--Me:  "I am currently cataloguing my bird photos and way back in 2017, you had asked for additional pics of a possible Kelp Gull (vs. Great Black-Backed) that I saw in Pinellas co.  and posted to ebird.   Did you ever get a definitive answer from the Florida Ornithological Society, or anyone else?"

3/17/2020--Reviewer:  "Unfortunately, I didn’t ever get a definitive answer.  My feeling is that it’s a Kelp Gull, but without a photo of the primaries, there’s no way to be 100% sure." 
 

Additional photos attached.  No edits/cropping.

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Edited by floraphile
correction
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