You may have seen a post I made in August about the variety of Gulls and the complexities of identifying them. This winter, I have been trying to improve my gull identification skills and have been practicing at, get this, the Hannaford Supermarket in South Portland.
Please don’t get the wrong idea. This is not an item they carry in the supermarket under the brand “Lucky Brand Mystery Meat,” but rather a location on the Mill Creek where it empties into the Fore River that is a haven for a large number of gulls. Most of these gulls are Greater Black-Backed Gulls, Herring Gulls and Ring-Billed Gulls. These are 5 year, 4 year and 3 year gulls respectively.
What does that mean? It means that, in the case of a Herring Gull, that after it is fully grown (a few weeks old) it will change its plumage annually and won’t have its adult plumage until its 3 1/2 to 4 years old.
Have you ever looked at a group of gulls and just thought some of them looked dirty or ratty? Chances are they are just young gulls even if you did see them fly out of a dumpster. So all of this variation makes it even more difficult to identify a species and it makes finding a rare gull sort of like playing Where’s Waldo.
There were at least 200 gulls hanging out at the Hannaford’s and my friends and I spotted three Iceland Gulls amongst them. When I was at this very patch just two weeks ago, there was an additional species, a Glaucous Gull, which is hard to discern from the Iceland Gull.
In this image you can see nearly at center an adult Great Black-Backed Gull. This is a very large gull. To the left of that bird are some Herring Gills and above them is a young (1st cycle) Great Black-Backed Gull…Then there is Waldo. Despite the disguise notice its the only gull without any black or brown in its feathers and its feet and legs are also a bit pinker.
Having fun yet? Waldo over there is a 1st year Iceland Gull. Take a look at the images below and try not to sit too close to the monitor…