Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2015-03

Common name:

Laughing Gull

Scientific name: Leucophaeus atricilla
Date: 16 Jan 2015
Time: 12:00 PM
Length of time observed: 1 hour
Number: 1
Age: First-winter
Sex: unknown
Location: Ponds north of the landfill, near Lee Kay Ponds
County: Salt Lake
Distance to bird: 100 yards
Optical equipment: Nikon spotting scope.
Weather: Overcast, a bit below freezing. Hazy with inversion trapping polluted air.
Light Conditions: Flat overcast light.
Description:        Size of bird: Smaller than adjacent Ring-billed Gulls.
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Gull.
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: See details below.
(Description:)            Bill Type: Gull. Black and subtly down-curved.
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Easily identified as one of the small dark-hooded gulls, although relatively large compared to most of this group. Overall a strong impression of darkness when adjacent to white-bodied gulls like Ring-billed and California. This dark impression was due to a complete collar of medium gray across the upper breast, with the same color extending down the sides. Wing coverts were brownish and appeared worn. Primary tips solidly blackish. Legs and bill black, with bill obviously longer than on Franklin's Gull (although none were present for direct comparison) and drooping subtly but distinctly. Indistinct blackish or very dark gray "hood" present from in front of eyes through nape, not contrasting obviously with the gray nape or the white forecrown. White eye arcs thin but visible above and below the eyes. White throat. I did not see the bird fly, but once it flapped (stretching its wings?) and the black primary tips seemed to blend into the rest of the !
dorsal surface of the wing, not set off or differing in tone.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: None.
Behavior: Loafing on a frozen pond near a landfill among about 1500 or 2000 other gulls, including mostly California Gulls but also (in descending order of frequency) Ring-billed Gulls, Herring Gulls, Thayer's Gulls, Lesser Black-backed Gulls, and Glaucous Gulls.
Habitat: Frozen pond near a landfill.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Laughing Gull is a distinctive species and the only real identification contender is Franklin's Gull. This bird had a longer bill than Franklin's Gull that drooped subtly but distinctly. The hood was not distinct from the nape, mostly because the nape was a medium gray tone, somewhat darker than the mantle color of adjacent adult California Gulls. In Franklin's Gulls at this time of year, the black hood (or "ear muffs") are distinct from a whitish nape. The gray also extended across the breast and down the sides, where these areas are white on Franklin's Gulls of all ages in January.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I have extensive experience with thousands of Franklin's Gulls annually. I have seen hundreds of Laughing Gulls in their normal range, including in North Carolina, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Maine.
References consulted: Sibley Guide to Birds, 1st Edition.
Description from: From photo(s) taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: Ryan O'Donnell
Observer's address: 1098 Crescent Dr., Logan, UT 84341
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird: This bird was initially found at the nearby Lee Kay Ponds by Matt Pendleton on 14 January 2015. I observed it on the 16th with Michael Lester, Jack Binch, and Rachel LeBlanc. Others who have reported it to eBird include:
14th: Shyloh Robinson, Bryant Olsen, Kenny Frisch, Gail Jenson, Norm Jenson, Dave Hanscom, and Pomera Fronce.
15th: Tim Avery, Kenny Frisch, Mike Hearell, Laurene Joseph, Lothair Pendleton, Matt Pendleton, and Nate Brown.
16th: John Neill.
17th: Dale Provost, Craig Provost, and Alton Thygerson.
Date prepared: 17 Jan 2015
Additional material: Photos  
Additional_Comments: eBird checklist:   nnina