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late “Thayer’s” Gull; and what’s THE most mis-identified/mis-reported bird in San Diego County??

late “Thayer’s” Gull; and what’s THE most mis-identified/mis-reported bird in San Diego County??

By – 11:40 am

Today, 22 May, there was a worn, first-cycle “Thayer’s” Iceland Gull at the J Street mudflats with almost 200 Californias. Quite late.

Quick, what’s the most misidentified bird in San Diego County?? I’d bet most folks quickly start thinking about empidonax flycatchers, peep, some large gulls….and that could be correct. For some time I’ve also wondered about a good percent of the unseasonal reports of Black & Vaux’s Swifts (more likely poorly seen or poorly lit White-throated Swifts, possibly Purple Martins) and unseasonal reports of Swainson’s Thrushes. But, as an eBird reviewer, I just might have a new #1 vote: RING-BILLED GULL! Yep, there are simply gobs of poorly documented and likely incorrect reports of this species between May and mid-July (when migrants start reappearing), especially from the immediate coast and the largest inland lakes. This species is quite rare at this season, but over-summering young California Gulls are numerous–and which show strongly bicolored bills. Many observers simply do not appreciate the fact that Ring-billeds are far, far outnumbered by Californias at this season (and throughout much of the year) in many areas, and they just “assume” otherwise. Again, this is most likely an issue near the coast. If one goes to some inland pond where people feed the ducks, perhaps the ratio of over-summering Ring-billed:California is higher. Personally, in 2022, I have not seen a Ring-billed now in almost three weeks!! None at J Street or anywhere on South San Diego Bay. None at the San Diego River mouth / Robb Field. Years ago, a few summered every year at Oceanside Harbor and vic., but even that seems to have slacked off as of late. In 2021, I don’t believe I saw a single Ring-billed Gull in the county during the month of June. Anyway, we have now arrived at the season when there are pretty darn few Ring-billeds around, so if folks are looking for a little project for the next two months, check all your local gull spots–especially close to the coast–and try to find more than just a couple Ring-billeds for the entire period, but likely plenty of young, ratty Californias with sharply bicolored bills!

–Paul Lehman, San Diego