Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah
Rec. # O_2008-01

Common name:

Mew Gull

Scientific name: Larus canus
Date: 9 Feb 2008
Time: 2:50 PM
Length of time observed: ~3 Minutes
Number: 1
Age: First winter
Sex: Unknown
Location: Logan Fish Hatchery
County: Cache
Distance to bird: <50 yards
Optical equipment: Nikon D80 digital SLR camera with Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8D lens
Weather: Overcast, cool.
Light Conditions: Even lighting, overcast
Description:        Size of bird: Small gull
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Gull shape with small rounded head.
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Mottled whites and grayish-browns. (details below)
(Description:)            Bill Type: Small, thin gull bill
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Overall a small gull, accurately described as "dainty" and "gentle" by others. Small, rounded head. Dark eye. Bicolored bill with a dark tip and a smudgy pink base. White base color to breast and belly with extensive brown smudging throughout. I did not get a good look at the color of the legs. Tail has an extensive dark brown or blackish terminal band. Rump was heavily smudged with grayish brown. The extended wings had dark outer primaries blending into grayish inner primaries and again darker secondaries. The secondary coverts were paler gray, matching the inner primaries. The folded wing had speckled brownish coverts with gray secondaries, black or very dark brown primaries, and a medium gray mantle.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: Vocalization was not observed or not noticed.
Behavior: Initially resting in a shallow pool in a warm spring near the Logan Fish Hatchery with several other gulls, probably Ring-billed and/or California. As we approached, all the gulls lifted off and circled around. This one stood out from the rest so I photographed it as it circled around over me and then settled back down near its original position.
Habitat: A shallow pool with a muddy bottom along a slow-flowing warm spring tributary feeding into Cutler Marsh. Carp were abundant in the pool.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
This species was initially misidentified in the field as an immature Ring-billed Gull because of its small size. It was distinguished from the Ring-billed Gull by its smaller bill, darker rump, heavier smudging on the breast and belly, and less-contrasty upper wing.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I have seen this species many times in Washington and Oregon, where I formerly lived, but I do not have much experience identifying the immature plumages. I have been focussing on learning my gulls lately, and so I have a decent amount of experience identifying the common species in Utah of all life stages.
References consulted: The Sibley Guide to Birds (David Sibley) and Gulls of the Americas (Steve Howell and Jon Dunn)
Description from: From memory
Observer: Ryan P. O'Donnell
Observer's address: 1098 Crescent Dr., Logan, UT
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Stephanie Cobbold observed this bird in the field with me, but we did not correctly identify it at the time. Tim Avery independently identified this bird from the photographs, but did not see the bird in the field, as far as I know.
Date prepared: 16 Mar 2008
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: This species is not on the current review list for the state of Utah, but I am submitting this record because this is significantly out of the normal range for this species. Most records of this species in Utah are from the Salt Lake area. From what I have been able to conclude from previous rare bird records and archives of hotline reports on the Utah Birds webpage, this may be only the second record of this species in Cache County, and the first since 1991.

This bird was initially misidentified in the field and therefore notes were not taken at the time. Only later after reviewing the photos did I realize which species this was. Descriptions above are taken directly from the photographs for the most part, with some details (such as weather conditions and behavior) from memory.