During my trip to San Diego last April (see San Diego Trip Reports), I stayed near the Sea Port Village (mainly the area between the Convention Center and the USS Midway) and made an effort to visit the small parks and boulevard on a daily basis to check if any gulls were present.
On a couple of occasions I managed to identify some California Gulls (Larus californicus), all of them non-adults.
I have to admit that it has taken me quite some time to split them into the various age groups because of the variation in their plumage characteristics. Feel free to correct me if you think I have got it wrong…
Two individuals were present, identifiable by their dark brown, juvenile looking appearance and first-generation primaries. Both were actively moulting their wing coverts.
I photographed 3 individuals with a wide variation in plumage.
The first one is pretty straight forward: faded brown flank and belly feathers, much gray in the scapulars, a green bill base and pink legs. The coverts, tertials and primaries are all second-generation feathers. Moult in the wing coverts seems to have started but on a much lower scale than can be seen in the second-calendar years.
Fortunately enough, I was able to take flight shots of the second individual. It shows a plumage pattern that I would expect to see in a third-calendar year gull: much more white on the body and in the tail while still showing much brown in the wing coverts, secondaries and primaries. The inner primaries are quite light while the outer primaries are dark brown without a mirror on P10.
Now, the third one had me reaching for the books: its plumage much more resembles that of a second-calendar year (note the dark tail feathers and barred tail coverts) but note also the second-generation secondaries and primaries (of which the inner primaries are light and the outer primaries have rounded tips). The bill also has a more green/yellow-ish tinge to it. Very much different than individual #2.
I didn’t get to see any adults, but 4th-calendar years are the next best thing.
Two individuals showed up, both displaying typical near-adult plumage: white body and head, predominantly grey wing feathers but with a brown hue in the coverts, black primaries with small white tips, some black in the tail and a yellow bill with red gonys spot and black tip.
Same individual as in the opening photo above, but seen from a different angle. Note the black in the tail feathers and the dark brown center of tertial #4. You can also just see the small mirror on P10 (better visible in the photo at the top of the page). The legs are distinctly green.
Very much the same characteristics as #1, even down to the dark center on tertial #4.
I would have loved to have seen (and heard) more of these beautiful gulls, but that will have to wait for another trip…
Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America Klaus Malling Olsen and Hans Larsson
Gulls of the Americas Steve N.G. Howell and Jon Dunn