Presumed hybrid gull sighting in Florida!

31 03 2009


Presumed LBBG x HERG chick sighted by Mitchell Harris in Florida (photo by the same).

Presumed LBBG x HERG chick sighted by Mitchell Harris in Florida (photo by the same).

Faithful readers of the SEANET blog will be familiar with the tale of the Lesser Black-Backed Gull observed mated to a Herring Gull on Appledore Island in Maine last summer (see Adventures of a Euro Gull and Update on Julie’s LBBG). The presumed hybrid chicks raised by the pair were banded by Dr. Julie Ellis last summer and nothing had been heard from either one of them…until now. 

One of the birds, sporting a green band on its left leg reading F02, turned up amidst the droves of other, non-celebrity gulls at a landfill in Volusia County, Florida. While birding at the site, Mitchell Harris surreptitiously snapped a picture of the bird and sent it along to Julie here at SEANET. The diminutive gull is decidedly smaller than the average Herring Gull juvenile, and looks mostly like a Lesser Black-Backed Gull from the field reports, but that tell-tale band points to this bird’s unusual heritage.

Dr. Ellis obtained feather samples from the chicks when she banded them last summer, and will soon be submitting them for genetic confirmation of the birds’ hybrid status. For now, we are thrilled that Florida birders have managed to turn up not one, but two needles in the proverbial haystack, finding both the Lesser Black-Backed himself and one of his presumed offspring. Since gulls generally wander for a few years before attaining sexual maturity and heading up to breeding colonies, we have no idea where this young bird may elect to travel next. As Dr. Ellis’ field assistant, Bill Clark, pointed out, it will be interesting to see if this bird summers in Florida, travels up to New England for the warmer months, or does something else entirely. Thanks to all the birders out there keeping their eyes peeled for these banded birds, and especially to Mitchell Harris for this particular report. We will keep everyone posted as we hear further updates on this unusual gull family.



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