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The overall structure and gray and white plumage of this bird should suggest that we are dealing with a small gull or tern. It's difficult to make out much of the bill, but from what we can see the bill appears fairly thin and black (at least black at the tip). This may lead us to consider terns, but terns should show more pointed wings. Furthermore, the large white tips to the outermost two primaries combined with the overall coloration don't fit any species of tern. This leaves us with several small gulls. The most frequently encountered small gull in most of our region is Bonaparte's Gull. But adults and second-cycle birds have extensive white on the leading edge of the primaries and black trailing edge to the primaries. Black-headed Gull can be eliminated for the same reason. The pale upperparts and broad white trailing edge to the secondaries may call to mind Ross's Gull, but on Ross's Gull the white is limited to the secondaries and inner primaries. The tail also does not appear as graduated, or wedge-shaped, as a Ross's Gull. This leaves us with Little Gull. The broad white trailing edge contrasting with pale gray upperparts is a classic Little Gull field mark. While adults have a completely white trailing edge to the secondaries and primaries, this is often interrupted with black on second-cycle birds. Also note the overall structure of our bird—compared to a Bonaparte's Gull, note this individual's relatively short rounded wings and pudgy body.
This second-cycle Little Gull was photographed in Tompkins County, New York in March 2007.
The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the November Bird Photo Quiz—Little Gull:
The following list shows the number of submissions for each species guessed.
The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Chris Wood.