FW: [CALBIRDS] true summer status of Ring-billed Gull along CA coast?

Tom Edell

I've always felt that especially in summer immature California Gulls are misidentified as Ring-billed Gulls, so I think that Paul Lehman's post is one worth reading. In SLO County, Ring-billed Gulls are found on sandy beaches in the South County and from Morro Bay (sandspit and estuary) to Cayucos. This species is unexpected along the rocky north coast where one or maybe two occasionally summer on sandy beaches at creek mouths such as Santa Rosa, San Simeon, and Arroyo Laguna. If you think you see more than a couple, look again. It happens, but very rarely in mid-summer. And don't identify young Ring-billed Gulls solely by a dark tipped bill! For eBirders, consider brief comments/photos for summer sightings and when unsure of the species enter gull sp. or Larus sp.

And like Paul, I'd be interested to hear what the maximum counts are that other people can find. Thanks...Tom

Tom Edell
Cayucos, CA

-----Original Message-----
From: CALBIRDS@groups.io <CALBIRDS@groups.io> On Behalf Of lehman.paul@... via groups.io
Sent: Friday, July 3, 2020 9:52 AM
To: calbirds@groups.io
Subject: [CALBIRDS] true summer status of Ring-billed Gull along CA coast?

A coastal, alternate-adult Ring-billed Gull photographed here in San Diego County yesterday (July 2nd) by Sue Smith reminded me of the good question raised by a number of folks over the past decade or so: What the true status of late-spring and early-summer Ring-billed Gulls is along the coast of California, between mid-May and mid-July? Certainly the first returning adults and juveniles start appearing around mid- (third week of) July. But true over-summering birds appear to be actually quite rare along the immediate coast for almost the entire length of the state. Can one find the occasional single bird, or perhaps a group of 2 or 3, sure! But very, very few. A couple favored sites might have up to 6 or 7. And a couple of the very large estuaries in the state may have more than that--places like the more interior sections of the San Francsico Bay complex and also perhaps locally up at Humboldt Bay. But what of many such reports from open beaches, mudflats, and rocky shores? The species in the past has been reported fairly regularly in such plces between mid-May and mid-July, and there are even some published reports of moderate numbers during this period. Multiple counts of 20-35 birds, with no details, along the outer coasts from several counties can still be found in the eBird data. But, Ring-billed Gull is actually quite rare at that season along almost the entire immediate coast--particularly any count over just one or several birds--and many such reports almost certainly involve young California Gulls (showing strongly bicolored bills), which are fairly numerous in those areas through the summer. Many of the RBGU reports have involved visiting out-of-state birders who do not appreciate the true summer status of these two gull species, and often they come from popular "birder tourist" destinations such as Monterey. But summering Ring-billeds are actually very rare along the immediate coast of Monterey, at least south of Moss Landing. Just one example.

So, if anyone is looking for a quick early-summer project, go to as many of your outer-coastal gull hang-outs as you can in the next 10 days or two weeks--before the southbound Ring-billeds and Californias start arriving--and see how many Ring-billeds you can actually find. And then also try some lakes and park ponds inland on the coastal plain. I have yet to find ANY Ring-billeds in San Diego County this summer, although I haven't checked some interior lakes which could well support a couple.
I'd be interested to hear what the maximum counts are that other people can find (away from San Francisco and Humboldt Bays). Anything over 5-7 birds, if that?

--Paul Lehman, San Diego

Tom Edell
Cayucos, CA

Join slocobirding@groups.io to automatically receive all group messages.