Dennis Martin just called and asked me to post his sighting of a possible first-cycle Laughing Gull in Houston County. The bird is sitting on an island in the river (the same island where an avocet was seen last week) about a quarter mile east of the wooden viewing platform along highway 26, approximately 4 miles south of Brownsville. Due to the distance he has been unable to evaluate bill size or shape, and he has not seen the bird in flight. The bird is amongst a flock of several hundred Ring-billed Gulls and looks smaller than all of the adjacent Ring-billeds. Dennis stated that the folded primaries are solidly black and that its back is clearly darker gray than the Ring-billeds, with brownish tertials. Although the bird has extended its wings while preening, he has not been able to see the ventral surface of its remiges and he has not seen its tail pattern.
Dennis is keenly aware of how difficult it can be to distinguish Franklin's and Laughing gulls and hopes that other birders are able to refind this bird. In addition to Gulls of the Americas (Howell and Dunn) and other books specifically addressing gull identification, birders may wish to consult Kenn Kaufman's Advanced Birding field guide for further guidance.
Thanks to Dennis for his timely report.
Peder H. Svingen
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