Date: 1/10/19 9:44 pm
From: Peter Metropulos <pjmetrop...>
Subject: [pen-bird] SLATY-BACKED GULL at Venice Beach,1/10/19
This morning I had the good fortune of finding a near adult SLATY-BACKED GULL roosting on Venice State Beach in Half Moon Bay.I arrived on the bluff at the edge of the parking lot at 10AM with scope in hand and a beautiful sky above. A group of about 500 gulls was resting and bathing on the beach below me about 50 yards away. I soon picked out one that caught my interest. It was a large dark-backed gull ,white head and remainder of underparts with a striking pale eye surrounded by a thin dark patch and pale brown spotting on crown,neck,nape and chest.It was pure white with no spotting from lower chest to undertail coverts. The bill was dull yellow with a red spot bordered with purple-black on lower mandible ,was very large and rather straight.The tertials formed a broad white crescent and it had a broad white edge to secondaries. Uppertail covers were white,tail was blackish with some white starting to come in,the tip of the tail formed a white terminal band.When bird stretched I could see details of the primaries: conspicuous row of white spots on dark gray . The posture was less stocky,more upright than Western Gull,and appeared to have a rounder head and slightly longer neck. The pale eye surrounded by dark feathering surrounding it gave it a "mean" or "fierce"look. It was very aggressive in behavior,chasing off any other gull within striking distance,the Western Gulls scuttled away when they saw it coming ! The legs and feet were dull pink. It appeared mostly like an adult but with a mostly dark tail,just a hint of brown in the upperwing coverts(otherwise slate-gray above),and a bit of purplish-black bordering red spot on bill. So I'd say it's a third-year bird transitioning into its adult plumage.I studied the bird for nearly an hour under excellent light conditions. Finally the weather warmed up a bit,people and dogs descended to the beach,and my peaceful gull-watching session was over.The gulls scattered,mostly heading south to settle down at Francis Beach. By noon I made it to the newly re-formed gull flock which had now grown to over one thousand individuals. I spent a half-hour looking through the birds but was unable to relocate it.
Peter J. Metropulos,San Carlos,CA

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