Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Franklin's Gull in Brooklyn NY

In what appears to be a first documented record for Brooklyn, a Franklin's Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan) was discovered by photographer Deborah Allen. It was a chance find, as Deborah who was photographing Laughing Gulls at Plum Beach discovered the adult Franklin's as she was cycling through her photos. Realizing the rarity of such a bird, she immediately got the word out and Brooklyn birders were out the next day looking for the bird.  Fortunately, the bird stuck around and has been putting in sporadic appearances along the beach.

Franklin's Gull is rare for downstate New York; it is more uncommon in upstate NY with more sightings reported in those areas. The New York State Avian Records Committee (NYSARC) records show birds documented in Suffolk County LI and upstate NY. This is a bird that breeds in the northern plains and most of them tend to spend the winter south of the Equator along the west coast of South America. Its diet includes, insects, worms, fish, mice, garbage and seeds. Interestingly, the Brooklyn FRGU appeared to be foraging with the Laughing Gulls on Horseshoe Crab eggs on the beach. I saw this bird with friends Tom Burke and Gail Benson along with several other birders on Monday May 25th. It was re-found first by Shane Blodgett and then refound again by Sean Sime who was with Rob Jett. It was Sean's phone call that enabled many of us who were on the eastern end of the beach to see this bird.  The views were distant and not for long so I returned on May 27th where I enjoyed extended views of the bird. During this visit, I documented the bird capturing both video and photos.

Here is a shot showing the Franklin's and Laughing Gull in flight. Note the difference in the wingtips. The Franklin's has less black in the primaries and show an extensive mirror on P10. Even in this distant photo the thicker eye arcs of the Franklin's can be seen.

Here is a flight shot of the Franklin's showing the top side; it also provides a closer look at the wingtips. What a handsome looking Gull.

Here is a side by side comparison of the Franklin's with a Laughing Gull. Here you get a look at the smaller bill. Note the nape of the Franklin's as the white goes further into the hood than on a Laughing Gull. This was a feature that enabled a few of us to pick out this bird from a distance when we observed it on May 25th.

Another flight shot of the Frankin's Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan). Here you get another look at the bill size, the thicker eye arcs and white in the wingtips.

Finally, this shot shows the underside nicely. Here you could see the pinkish tone that is on the chest and belly of the Franklin's Gull plus another view of the underside of the wing showing the primaries.  Here is a cool tidbit - Do you know that Franklin's Gull is unique in that it is the only Gull to have two complete molts in a year rather than one.

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Louise said...

Well documented, Andrew. You made it into an enjoyable learning experience. Thanks.
Louise Fraza

Robert DeCandido PhD said...

Hi Andrew - nice photos and fine discussion. This is the second record for Brooklyn, but the first for downstate in spring when the Franklin's Gull is considerably more rare along the entire east coast. The majority of sightings of this bird in the east occur from August to October...The previous Brooklyn record (circa 1948) was also at Plumb Beach, but in October...

Harpyja said...

Thanks Andrew for your explanation, Now, knowing how to take it appart from Laughing Gull, I'll start my endeavour to find it. I hope it still is around.

catharus said...

Great photos, illustrations, explanations...thanks!