While doing some gull watching at Daytona beach during the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, some of the more experienced gull watchers were super excited about a lesser black-backed gull. It’s not so much that it was there, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for a lesser black-backed gull to show up, but this one was banded, and one of the gull watchers (Michael Brothers) knew where this bird came from–and we all know how much I love a good bird banding story!
Lesser black-backed gulls breed in Europe. They have been showing up more and more in North America and the suspicion has been that it’s a matter of time before they start breeding in on this side of the Atlantic, if they have not already, but no one had documented a nest. That is, until the last two years. In 2007, a lesser black-backed gull was paired up and tending a nest with a herring gull on an island off of New Hampshire.
A same pairing was observed in the summer of 2008 and it is presumed that this is the same lesser black-backed gull, but this time, researchers were able to band the lesser black-backed gull and the herring gull and they also witnessed the copulation between the two–determining that the lesser black-backed was the male. They gave him the usual metal band, but also a green plastic band that is easier to read in the field: F05!
F05 apparently likes to spend his winters in Florida–this is so exciting! It’s rare to get a recovery when it comes to banding, but the chance to track one while it’s alive is such a treat. Thanks to the internet we can find his history and have some answers. You can read the whole story of the pairing, the banding process, and the hybrid chicks at this website. If you check it out, you can see that the bird I digiscoped above is wearing the same band as the lesser black-backed on the island off of New Hampshire.
Also, if you are frustrated with gulls and the fact that there are wacky hybrids that make gull id even more difficult, you can blame this dude, he’s not helping.