2nd Winter Thayer’s Gull in Ireland

1st January 1999 and subsequently…

Thayer’s Gull had not been recorded in Western Europe in 2nd winter plumage, or so we thought. Even the bird which returned to NW Spain over several winters, from juvenile to adult plumage skipped one year- it’s 2nd winter plumage. However this bird from Cork in Ireland suggests one has occurred. Now’s the right tome of year to look for the next one…

narrated by Martin Garner

Paul Moore wrote a while ago following the publication on Birding Frontiers of this paper on identifying 2nd winter Thayer’s Gulls.  He had found an intriguing 2nd winter gull on Cork City Lough. Suggestions at the time included Thayer’s Gull but it eventually went down as a 3cy (2nd winter) Kumlien’s Gull. His video grabs already looked very promising for Thayer’s to both myself and Chris Gibbins but it was easier to make comments on his bird based on seeing the full video. A bit of wizardry by  Jim Wilson and  the video was copied and mailed off. Having only viewed it  more recently I have made some comments and tried to get some fresh grabs from the screen.

“Hi Martin and Chris,

I had nearly forgotten about the bird until Harry Hussey reminded me of it after seeing your original article. Just to give some background on the bird I found it on 1st Jan 1999 at Cork City Lough and saw it briefly about a week later again. Subsequently I found out Harry Hussey saw the bird about a month later and noted a dark secondary bar on it.

 Not sure if I mentioned the only reason I was at Cork lough on the day was I volunteered to take our baby daughter for a spin in the car to try to get her to sleep before dinner with the in laws.

Brownie points and a Thayers Gull that’s a win win situation! 

 many thanks and all the best,  Paul”

thayeri candidate all

thayeri candidate all.jpg2

thayeri candidare tail

thayeri candidate wing

2nd winter Thayer’s Gull, (all photos above) Cork City Lough, January 1999. Grabs from video by Paul Moore. Chris Gibbins hasn’t seen the video yet so here on my comments based on that video, hopefully with feel of the key details in the photos above:

Hi Paul

I have had good look at your video. In a nutshell this looks spot on for  2nd winter Thayer’s Gull.

Specifically the overall structure and plumage looks like a middle of the range Thayer’s not one of these lighter/ trickier birds. The structure also pushed away any thoughts of a similarly plumaged American Herring Gull.

Key Features:

  • The iris is dark looking
  • The tertials are lovely mostly plain, medium/dark brown, the primaries are dark with thin pale fringe- fine in my view and part of normal variation
  • The tail is extensively and obviously dark and plain.
  • The trickier area is the flight feathers. I am happy enough that they show a pattern that while still blurry is nevertheless of at least 5 outer primaries with dark running right up to the primary coverts and there is no strong evidence of a pale mirror on p10. It is not possible to be 100% on this but it’s certainly not an obvious pale mirror or multiple line of mirrors strung over several outer primaries- as in many 2nd w Kumlien’s gulls. So I suspect there is no mirror. I also like the obvious contrast between darker outer and paler inner primaries.  The exact pattern of dark in those outer most primaries is essentially impossible to read the details on, but the darkness of outer webs, their breadth and extent and broadness of dark at tip are all better for thayeri I think. 

I tried hard to find something wrong with it and cannot

In overall appearance and in all visible details its a nice 2nd w Thayer’s.

I am sure someone with video expertise could better freeze the best shots of the wing and maybe draw out a little more info- which might be worth pursuing.

Hope that’s helpful

Cheers Martin


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