Way back on January 29, David and I embarked on an epic day of birding…well, not all that epic, until we crossed the Bullhead/Laughlin bridge (just south of Davis Dam), and noted a gull flock loafing below the bridge. We pulled into a parking lot just across from the gulls, and David started scanning with the scope. Looking through binoculars, I noticed that the far-left bird looked a little “off”, just a little, well, little, and smudgy. I asked David if I could please have the scope for a moment to check out a gull. Looking through the scope, I saw brown primaries and my eye rested on the petite bill – a Mew Gull!
The American population of this species (probably a good species itself) is fairly restricted to the Pacific Coast in winter, with only occasional strays inland. If accepted by the ABC, this will be only the 13th Mew Gull recorded in Arizona. Their rarity is compounded by the fact that they kinda look like young Ring-billed Gulls. The photo below shows most of the relevant ID points – all-brown tail, tiny bill, smudgy plumage, silvery under-primaries, brown outer primaries, and middle primaries with pale inner webs and dark outer webs and tips (among other points).
As far as finding and identifying rare gulls, well, they are a real pain in the ass. In Lake Havasu City, we have swarms of Ring-billed Gulls, usually with no other species, at least this winter. This has meant gull-watching has been really boring, so I’ve been staring at the first-cycle Ring-bills trying to turn them into Mew Gulls. It is this kind of behavior that makes an actual Mew Gull really pop out – in particular, I keep mentioning the smudgy plumage, whereas most young Ring-bills have crisp, even pretty, speckling.
As of yesterday, the gull was still haunting the area – it was seen and photographed yesterday evening at Katherine Landing, where the bird seems to roost or at least stop before going to roost.