Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Lesser Black-backed Gull - Lake Havasu

Two days ago (26 November 2012), John West photographed an odd gull on the beach at Rotary Park.  He sent the photos to David Vander Pluym, who immediately identified it as a juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull!

Photos by John West

Above are two of John's photos of the Lesser Black-backed Gull.  I have fairly limited experience with Lesser Black-backed Gull, but I do see California and Herring Gulls regularly.  This bird is striking to me because the scapulars, tertials, and some of the wing coverts are solidly dark with narrow white edging.  Some important ID points are the long wings, narrow white edging on the tertials not reaching the greater coverts, fairly small black bill (though it seems to be on the large side for LBBG), fairly white ground color, masked face and streaked sides, and a dark bar on the greater coverts formed by dark bases growing broader distally.  In flight, it shows a black band on the tail (white bases to the outer rects) and plain dark underwing coverts.

There are two records of Lesser Black-backed Gull for Arizona.  Photos of those birds are here and here.

I've spent the past two days running around Havasu looking for this bird, without success.  However, I have seen a number of other goodies just being out and about.  In the Bill Williams, David and I saw the continuing two White-winged and four Surf Scoters.  At Rotary Park, we saw the two Pacific Loons which John found two days ago.

Pacific Loon on Thompson Bay, photographed 28 November
Also on Thompson Bay yesterday were two Arizona Review Species, a Black Scoter and a Red-throated Loon.

Red-throated Loon on Thompson Bay, photographed 27 November

Black Scoter on Thompson Bay, photographed 27 November
Today, I did something new, and bought a day pass to Lake Havasu State Park.  I think $10 is a bit steep to walk around on otherwise abundant lakeshore, but there is usually a nice gull flock there.  Not so today, but I checked the small cactus garden there, where I ran into a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at Lake Havasu SP, photographed 28 November
Best of all these birds, though, was a White-winged Scoter on the California side of the lake.  A county bird for me yesterday, and for David today.  I'm planning to give the Lesser Black-backed Gull another day of searching.  After all, the Glaucous Gull was notoriously difficult to find, and that bird was a cinch to pick out and ID even when it was over a mile away!


  1. Those are some great birds Lauren, I'm super jealous. Hopefully the gull is still around, good luck on your search!

  2. This post is linked on the ABA Rare Bird Alert:

  3. Lauren - - I talked with Lake Havasu State Park today and they have lowered their daily use fee for hikers and birders to three dollars. There is a good possibility that they will lower it more during Jan and Feb when I will be leading daily bird walks. Jim Scott

  4. Jim, that is great news! Thanks for sharing. I will definitely be going there a lot more often.