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Tis' the Season: Gulls Part 1

posted by Tim Avery at
on Thursday, December 9, 2010 

1st winter Herring Gull. Copyright Tim Avery

Snow falling, lakes freezing over, cold north winds--it's time for gulls. Or so it should be, heck it was 2 weeks ago with more than a foot of snow and temperatures in single digits in northern Utah. Today I look out the window and I can see the grass on my entire front yard. It feels balmy in the 40's, and seems more like mid to late February than the middle of December.

So let's turn back the clock two weeks. Jeff Bilsky and I visited all the usual Salt Lake County gull hotspots (Lee Kay Ponds, Decker Lake, Saltair, and Lake Park). Depsite seeing several thousand gulls, it was the typical mix of 95% California, 4.9% Ring-billed, and less than 1% "other". The other this time were a handful of Herring Gulls. No Thayer's, no Glaucous, nothing, nada, zip!

A couple days later someone reported an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull at Decker Lake, ensuring the birds were arriving for the winter, and we may have been a tad early. Typically I wait until around Christmas to seriously start looking for gulls. The week leading up to New Years has always been productive, producing at least 10 species of gulls, along with hybrids, and other unidentified individuals. Lee Kay ponds has been the go to place, but in the last couple years Decker Lake and Lake Park have both been pretty good when Lee Kay is barren. The gulls seem to move around--and thus far we haven't identified a pattern, only that if the gulls aren't at one location, they are almost always at one of the others.

Over the next month, I am going to write a series of posts about the species of gulls that we have recorded in the past few years, as well as information about the locations, including the best time to go, where to view from, and anything that might be helpful for gulling in Salt Lake County.

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Blogger BirdyGirl said...

Very interesting article. I love gulls. I live in England so I hope you don't mind my comment. I live in Suffolk and there is a river nearby where I often spot gulls similar to your photo (great photo by the way). I thought it was a Glaucous gull but someone said it may be a yellow-legged gull. You can see it here http://feedingwildbirdsblog.blogspot.com/2010/11/glaucous-gull-by-river.html
What type of gull do you think it is? Any ideas?

December 10, 2010 at 7:17 AM  
Blogger Tim Avery said...


I think that is a Yellow-legged Gull.

Original Post: http://bit.ly/i71vMe

Now, I have never seen one, and have zero experience with this species, but based off the black wing tips, the checkered back and more importantly those pale pink-gray legs, that would seem to fit.

This site has a variety of shots of this species:


Thanks for stopping by!

Tim Avery

p.s. of course if anyone thinks I am wrong, please feel free to comment--after all this could just be an aberrant Herring Gull, or some hybrid, etc.

December 10, 2010 at 9:53 AM  

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