In general 2nd cycle Glaucous Gulls in fall and winter are relatively unpatterned or blotchy looking birds, but are never as neatly pattered as some first cycle birds, particularly in wing coverts. Things get tricky when some first cycle birds are particularly pale or become faded and bleached later in the season. As as general rule if you see a pure white glaucous gull (Oct-February) it will most often be a 2nd cycle bird (at least, this holds true for birds I see in eastern Newfoundland). One should also be sure to check the eye color. All 1st cycle Glaucous Gulls in fall and winter have dark eyes, while 2nd cycle birds can be variably pale, some being, clear yellow or creamy yellow, as in adults.
Occasionally, 2nd cycle Glaucous Gulls can appear to have dark eyes from even close range. Very close inspection of these individuals reveals the eye to be honey brown and not as dark as in 1st cycle birds. These bird can be accurately aged by combination of pure white or blotchy plumage and bill pattern with slightly reduced black and small pale tip. Beware of 2nd cycle Iceland Gulls (Kumliens) show a bi-colored bill and can match Glaucous Gull in plumage in their second cycle. However, these birds are often much smaller, smaller billed, with a more rounded head and longer wings than any Glaucous Gull. As well, on close inspection the bills of 2nd cycle Iceland Gulls are often have fleshy or greenish tones in the base of the bill and not the pinkish tones of Glaucous Gulls.
Below are a series of photos of both 1st and 2nd cycle Glaucous Gulls, highlighting the features discussed above.
|1st cycle Glaucous Gull, St.John's, NL, Jan. Note finely patterned wing coverts, dark eye and bi-colored bill, with all black tip.|
|1st cycle Glaucous Gull, St.John's, NL, December. A particularly well patterned individual that should never be confused with a 2nd winter bird. Note also, dark eye and typical bi-colored bill with all dark tip.|
|1st cycle Glaucous Gull, St.John's, NL, Jan. Again note patterning on wing coverts and lack of blotchy appearance. Also, dark eye and bi-colored bill, with all dark tip.|
|1st cycle Glaucous Gull, St.John's, NL, Jan. A somewhat pale individual, though note consistent patterning throughout scapulars and wing coverts- dark eye, bi-coloured bill, with pink base and all dark tip.|
**Want to learn more about ageing Gulls?Consider joining a Gull ID workshop, or if you are really want to learn Gulls, inquire about the January 2020 Newfoundland Winter Birding and Gull Extravaganza trip! I can be reached through the blog, also my website at https://birdingnewfoundland.com
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