Birders in Phoenix have had quite a string of rare vagrants to keep them busy, and I’ve been behind in processing and posting images of some of them. I’ve finally gotten the time to cover the Mew Gull that was found at the recharge ponds in Glendale, AZ, and hung around for a few days so many active birders from around AZ got a chance to view it.
Any gull in AZ is worth a look since we see so few of them away from the Colorado River. Even as an active birder I might not see any gull of any species for an entire year if I stay close to Phoenix. So it is a remarkable year when I get to see Mew Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, and Black-legged Kittiwake in addition to the relatively more common Ring-billed Gull.
Mew Gull is primarily seen in winter along the west coast of the U.S.. There’s a European form that is a rare stray to the east coast. Seeing one at any inland location in the U.S. is a treat. According to the azfo.org web site “This gull is a rare transient and winter visitor. There are fewer than 15 previous state records.”
Mew Gull looks a lot like a Ring-billed Gull. Both are three-year gulls with similar plumage at each stage of development. The bill of Mew Gull is somewhat smaller than Ring-billed, and instead of a ring on the beak the entire tip is dark. With immature birds (as seen here) the Mew Gull is darker on the chest.
All images: November 18, 2011, Nikon D300, 300/2.8 AF-S plus TC20E (2x). Gull in flight: ISO 800, 1/1250th second @ f/5.6. All others: ISO 200, 1/25oth – 1/320th @ f/11.