[Tweeters] Skagit white gull and an odd raptor
garybletsch at yahoo.com
Thu Feb 25 09:26:32 PST 2021
Yesterday, the 24th February, other observers saw the all-white gull near Skagit River Park in Burlington. I missed it, presumably because people were flying drones over the soccer pitch, scaring away even the boldest of crows. If I have a chance to look for it again today, I will; I am hoping that the return of miserable weather will keep the droners away.
I would still love to hear informed opinions from gull experts, as to this bird's ID, now that there are a few more photos on eBird. I was hoping for some rowdy arguments, reminiscent of the ones heard back when there was an odd-looking pale gull down at the sound end of Lake Washington ten or fifteen years ago.
I think that this bird is leucistic. Since the legs are pink--normal in color--I don't think the bird is an albino. In their gull book, Olsen and Larsson mention an albino GLGU with greyish-yellow legs; they apparently knew of just one albino individual for the species. They also mention at least one leucistic GLGU that had normally colored bare parts. That's why I lean toward leucism instead of albinism. Leucism is far more common, anyway.
I did not get good looks at the irides of this gull, but I think they were fairly dark, with none of the red eye color expected in real albinos.
Again, size and shape pointed to Glaucous-winged, or to Glaucous, or to a hybrid. The shape of the bill and head did not call Herring Gull to mind, and were altogether too heavy for this to be a Thayer's Gull. The slightly blended look to the demarcation of the dark bill-tip made me skittish about claiming GLGU, although I'd dearly like to see one, not having found any in Skagit for a few years.
Another interesting bird was a smallish raptor that was perched near the pheasant pens at the Fir Island Game Range. At first when I stopped the car, I thought it was an owl. Unfortunately, the sun was behind the bird in the only views that I could get through the dense branches--but I could see that it was a hawk of some sort, not an owl. Passerines were chattering and keeping an eye on this hawk, which perched for long periods without much movement.
The more I watched at close range, the more I was convinced that it was some odd sort of Buteo. I got a bit excited when I remembered that someone had reported a Red-shouldered Hawk there at the Game Range a few weeks ago--although I don't think that report passed eBird muster.
The tail was very short, reaching to about the same length as the folded wings; it was banded, reminiscent of a young Red-tailed Hawk's tail. The face looked wrong for a Red-tail, though, and the streaking on the underparts had me utterly confused. I asked some photographers with honkin' big lenses to snap a few shots, and they did.
Then one of the photographers showed me a photo he had taken of this same bird a bit earlier, in good light. The bird in his photo was clearly a young Cooper's Hawk.
It was then that I had to administer what Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers used to call a "dummy slap" upon my own forehead. I realized that the hawk had lost nearly all of its tail! That explained the odd, chunky shape of the bird, as well as its lethargy. I suspect that this is a young female Cooper's Hawk that is having a very hard time catching any prey, since it can hardly manoeuver. Perhaps it will figure out how to catch some slow-moving critters, now that songbirds are off the menu of possibility.
What, I wonder, could account for an Accipiter having its rectrices shorn so short?
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