eWestern Birds

The Quarterly Journal of Western Field Ornithologists

Vol. 55, No. 1
March 2024
Western Field Ornithologists


Image
Back to Archive
Second Prebasic Molt of a Black-headed Gull at Anchorage, Alaska
Robert L. Scher

ABSTRACT: A second-cycle Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus), a rare to casual visitor in western North America, remained at Anchorage, Alaska, from 16 July through 17 September 2023, providing a unique opportunity to track and document most stages of its second prebasic molt into definitive (adult) basic plumage. I estimated that the Anchorage bird required approximately 3 to 3.5 months (early/mid-June through late September) to complete the molt of its primaries. This is notably longer than the “average” 2.5 months stated for second-cycle Black-headed Gulls in several publications, but consistent with the duration and calendar limits reported by others for the entire species (mid-May/June through September). The start and duration of rectrix molt relative to the stage of primary molt closely matched that described for gulls in general, and specifically for predefinitive Bonaparte’s (C. philadephia) and Western (Larus occidentalis) gulls. When first observed in mid-July, the Anchorage bird had a white tail, as in definitive plumage, a trait infrequent in first-cycle Black-headed Gulls; then it molted the tail again through August. Although Black-headed Gulls occurring in western North America have been presumed to originate from eastern Asia, the timing of the Anchorage bird’s primary molt closely matched that published for second-cycle Black-headed Gulls in Europe, which has reported to be earlier—though molt schedules of Charadriiformes at the population level are highly variable.

Download—Second Prebasic Molt of a Black-headed Gull at Anchorage, Alaska