Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2009-21

Common name:

Little Gull

Scientific name: Larus minutus
Date: 9 Nov 2009
Time: 1:30 PM
Length of time observed: Periodically for ~2 hrs
Number: 1
Age: Adult
Sex: unknown
Location: Antelope Island Causeway
County: Davis
Distance to bird: 10-100 yards
Optical equipment: Nikon Monarch 10x42 binoculars, Nikon D80 with 80-400mm VR f/4-5.6 lens.
Weather: Sunny and cool
Light Conditions: Mid-day direct daylight.
Description:        Size of bird: Small gull, smaller than nearby Bonaparte's Gulls
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Similar shape to Bonaparte's but slightly more compact
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Mostly white and grey - see "Field Marks"
(Description:)            Bill Type: Small gull bill.
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Small white gull with a black ear spot and dusky cap at hind crown. Bill small, solid black. Pale gray mantle. White tail. Upper wing all pale gray except a white band along the entire trailing edge of the wing. Ventral surface of wing solidly blackish except for white trailing edge and pale axillaries.
Song or call & method of delivery: None known to come from this individual.
Behavior: Feeding on small insects (brine flies?) in the current under the largest bridge on the causeway. Periodically flew from the back of the pack to the front, then drifted back, and repeated.
Habitat: Great Salt Lake.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
This gull was distinctive by its diminutive size and plumage features. Bonaparte's Gull is the most similar to this species and can be eliminated because this gull was smaller (hundreds of Bonaparte's were present for direct comparison), had a dusky cap, had outer primaries solidly gray (not white) above with white (not black) tips, and had blackish underwing coverts, not pale grey.

Black-headed Gulls also have black under a large part of the underwing but are considerably larger than this gull, do not have a dusky cap, and show black in the dorsal surface of the folded primaries.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
This is my first experience with this species. I have seen thousands of the regular species of gulls in Utah.
References consulted: Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America.
Description from: Notes taken at time of sighting
Observer: Ryan P. O'Donnell
Observer's address: 1098 Crescent Dr., Logan, UT 84341
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Tim Avery, Edson Leite, Kris Purdy, Craig Fosdick, Stephen Peterson, Shelly Peterson, Jack Binch, and perhaps others.
Date prepared: 11 Nov 2009
Additional material: Photos