The day was overcast. I was accompanied by Allen Bryan. We were in a four-wheel drive vehicle and were initially attracted to this apparent full adult by the size, dark mantle, and pinkish legs. The mantle was about the shade of most Lessers, maybe a tad paler. The legs were pinkish-flesh, about the same shade as the Herring Gulls around it. The photos confirm that the bird was rather typical Herring Gull size, larger than some nearby, smaller than at least one. We observed it for a few minutes. I got off about a dozen photos, and was lucky to get some flight shots as it lifted off. To my knowledge, no one ever saw the bird again.
It resembles Slaty-backed in mantle color, size, chest streaking, eye smudge, bill shape, and primary pattern, including the "string of pearls" due to the white tongues. However, close examination shows that the tongue pattern is not as strong as schistisagus and is quite similar to that shown by several of the Herring Gulls in the pictures. Further, the white trailing edge of the secondaries is no larger than that of nearby Herring Gulls, and the neck and chest streaking is almost identical to that of nearby Herring Gulls. The bird also has an attenuated rear end look due to the relatively long primaries, unlike schistisagus. The legs aren't red enough.
The case against schistisagus is completed by the fact that the bill was entirely yellow, except for the red and black marks near the front. An Alaskan expert pointed out to me that almost always Slaty-backs in the winter have the basal two-thirds of the bill pinkish-flesh. This is verified by every photo that he sent me and by all the photos on the page of
Allen Chartier images.