To many North Americans the bird seems to be a first winter L. a. argentatus, the form of Herring Gull breeding in northern Europe. However, the verdict from the Eurpeans seems to be that it is a Herring X Glaucous hybrid. It does not, however, look like the Herring X Glaucous hyrids that we see in North America.
These photos were taken by Patrick in December of 1999. Here is his description:
When I first found this bird on December 2nd, it immediately struck me as different. The tertials had way too much internal barring for a typical first-winter smithsonianus, the greater coverts were very neatly checkered, there were neat pale fringes to the primaries, and the underparts were quite pale and streaky. When I saw the bird fly, my jaw nearly hit the ground. The tail was definitely wrong for typical smithsonianus, with extensive barring at the bases of the retrices giving it an almost marinus-like tail band. I thought I might have had a first winter nominate argentatus. Initial response from North American birders was positive. I relocated the bird and obtained better views and photographs. The bill was troubling for the initial argentatus ID. There seemed to be too much pale at the base of the bill. Feedback from some very respected gull observers in Europe suggested that the bird might be a 'Nelson's Gull', hybrid HerringXGlaucous. The main problems they had with the bird were the amount of pale at the base of the bill, and the relative size of the eye and head. It is however, quite different from any hybrid HerringXGlaucous that I, or most other North American observers have ever seen. This brings up the possibility that the bird may be a European 'Nelson's Gull, that is a hybrid argenteus/argentatusXhyperboreous, or some sort of back crossed hybrid, possibly from Iceland. Other possibilities would include an extremely aberant first-winter smithsonianus, a backcross smithsonianusXhyperboreous or a second year bird in retarded moult(there does appear to possibly be a few juv. feathers on the lower scapulars though). One very respected and experienced gull observer has even wondered how we could rule out hybrid GlaucousXThayer's. Any comments from birders in Scandinavia that are familiar with nominate argentatus and or hybrids would be greatly appreciated.
There is a discussion of this bird on the responses page (under "Possible L. a. argentatus in Connecticut").
since January 18, 2000