Presumed Hybrid Lesser Black-backed x Herring Gull

Hybrids offspring from Lesser Black-backed Gulls mating with Herring Gulls are rare but somewhat regularly seen on the North Carolina Outer Banks. They can be difficult to separate from "Yellow-legged" type Herring Gulls from Europe, as well as true Yellow-legged Gulls.

This gull was observed by a bunch of birders on 15 Feb 2004 near Cape Hatteras Point on the "south beach" with a flock of mostly Herring Gulls. It was essentially the same size as, or perhaps very slightly larger than, nearby Herring Gulls. Any comments about this bird's identity are welcome! Various thoughts of this bird's identity include a Herring Gull hybrid, a "Yellow-legged" type Herring Gull from Europe, and a Yellow-legged Gull. Unfortunately, I didn't get any good full bill or spread-wing photos. These photos were "digiscoped" by hand-holding a Nikon CoolPix 4500 camera to a Kowa TSN-824 scope.

This was an adult bird with a white head, a little bit of neck streaking, and an all white tail. The mantle color was clearly a couple shades darker than nearby Herring Gulls but also significantly lighter than nearby Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
While not visible here, the underwingtip showed a relatively small amount of black (whereas Yellow-legged Gulls L. michahellis generally show quite a bit of black there). We did observe a large white "window" in P-10 and a small dot in P-9, and Brian Patteson has a great photo of this.
The legs were dull golden "school bus yellow" colored, not bright yellow but clearly not pink like the nearby Herrings.
Wish that Herring Gull hadn't decided to scratch its head at that moment . . .
The iris was yellow and the orbital ring was reddish.

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Created on ... February 18, 2004 |