Kumlien's Gull, Foster City, San Mateo County.
- Hi folks
I took my son to soccer practice, which was pretty near some good
birding spots so I hit the Shell Bar in Foster City to look at shorebirds.
In with a group of 120 or so Ring-bills and Mews (handful of Californias,
and two Westerns) was an adult Kumlien's Gull!! I was totally caught off
guard as this would be the last place I would have predicted seeing this
species, but there it was. I have been looking at Thayer's a lot this year
and this bird differed in several respects:
1) Most noticeable was that its mantle coloration was rather pale, in fact
going back and forth it was about as pale as a Forster's Tern above!
2) The structure was of a short billed, and had a distinctive dove-like
expression due to the steep forehead and rounded head.
3) Rather than the darker cinnamon brown streaking of Thayer's, this bird
had very pale and diffuse streaking mainly on the lower neck, none on the
4) The closed wingtips were not black, they were mid grey, a tad darker than
you would see on a Glaucous-winged Gull, and the dark wingtip was quite
reduced on the sitting bird.
5) In flight the dark was reduced, essentially nothing from below, and above
it seemed to be on the outer 3 or perhaps 4 primaries. As the bird flapped,
you lost track that it had a darker wing tip, it looked essentially pale
winged. But in photos the dark is clearly frozen in place and visible, in
life it was very hard to see. This is in contrast with Thayer's where the
dark is clearly visible from above.
1) Smaller in size than Western Gull by a large margin, but larger
2) Similar in overall size to California, but more stocky bodied, and
shorter billed, rounder headed.
3) Eye mid pale, honey colored, not entirely dark. Could not see
4) Legs short, perhaps shorter than on a Thayer's even. Not as bright
bubblegum as on Thayers.
5) Red gonys spot present, but very pale and diffuse.
The bird was in view for about 5 minutes, perhaps more, before flying south
towards Santa Clara County. I lost sight of it eventually, it kept on going.
This was on a receding tide, and the bird was at least 150 yards from me
visible through scope. Photos are with my 400 lens, so distant, but
hopefully diagnostic. I was getting ready to digiscope with the phone when
it took off. Here are 4 poor photos:
This is my first "classic" Kumlien's Iceland I have seen here, all of the
other Icelands I have seen in the Bay Area (I think its at least 4; 1 Santa
Clara, 1 SF/Marin, 2 San Mateo) have been white winged birds. This was
straight on mid-grey winged bird.
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