On the ‘gull with a black head’
front, my partner Julie and I were visiting the central Torres Strait over
December, Warraber (Sue) Island in
particular. Towards the end of our stay, we saw a gull with a fully black
head, flying with other, normal gulls, low (not much over head height) and
close (a few metres) over the beach.
It went by rather quickly, but we both
noted an all-black head (right down the nape) and a red beak. From field guides,
I suspected a Laughing Gull – but we could not confirm features like the
eyebrows or leg colour (it went by all too quickly, and we are not seabird or
tropical specialists – indeed, we expected to find a regular Australian visitor
in our field guide that we simply hadn’t really noted – we were
seeing a lot of ‘lifers’ during that particular trip to FNQ).
Talking later with local Islanders, it was
clear that this gull had been around the island for a few months at least –
many had noticed it, and noted that it could often be found in the islands
freshwater dam (the dam has an evaporation cover, but this collects water after
rain). The island dump is nearby, so gulls can often be found in the area,
enjoying the best of both worlds (water & food). We were leaving in a
couple of days, and were quite busy, but I went up to the dam on the last two
mornings on Warraber to no avail.
When I mentioned its possible name to
locals they were rather animated, because they had noticed that its call
resembled laughter, and thought this an entirely apt name.
Without an absolutely positive ID or a photo,
I didn’t report it. Perhaps I should have.
G10 A.D. Hope
Sent: Tuesday, 17 October 2006
To: Mark Clayton; 'Tobias
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds]
While I think that there is a very good chance that the second bird
is a Herring (or Vega) gull, the light in this photo makes me wonder if this is
not a Slaty-backed Gull which is more abundant in winter in coastal Japan. Then
again, if the primaries truly are paler (and not a light trick) then there's an
outside chance it's a Glaucous-winged Gull where the primaries are truly grey
rather than black as in the two prior species. The Glaucous-winged is a
northern Japan visitor
during winter so not outside possibility that would be around Tokyo. All have similar streaking and spots
on bill so would take someone who is very familiar with all 3 to distinguish in
October 17, 2006 5:17 PM
[canberrabirds] Re:black-headed gull
Your second species of gull with its pink
legs and yellow bill with a red spot on the lower mandible looks like a Herring
Gull (Larus argentatus) but is
probably what is now called the Vega Gull (L.vegae).
What looks like streaking on the neck of your photographed bird separate this
“new” species from the “old” Herring Gull. Recent
taxonomic studies on the larger gull species has led to a lot of splitting and
creation of new species. I don’t know if there has been a recent field
guide to the birds of Japan,
but if there is, maybe you could check that out. Having said all this someone
out there may prove me wrong.
As for the breeding plumage of the
Black-headed Gull, the top of the head, from the dark patch shown in your
photograph, down to the mid throat area becomes completely blackish. It has
been recorded on probably less than 10 times, mostly in the NT and WA.
Sent: Tuesday, 17 October 2006
This is indeed a photo of a
Black-headed Gull, although I have no idea as to how eclipse plumages affect
the colouration of the bird. However, I do know that the photograph was taken
near Tokyo in
January. Any thoughts about the next photo...I'm not sure of the identity of
the bird. Similar place and time.
P.S. Closer to home, would
someone enlighten me as to the differences between a Skylark and a Pipit?