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Update: August 4, 2000:- Thanks to recent postings to ID-Frontiers, I found this wonderful site with lots of Gulls in Japan. There are lots of 1B Slaty-Backs to compare to this bird, but I especially draw your attention to the first image on this page of SBGUs - the tail pattern is an EXACT match for the La Marque, Texas bird (even down to the pale tips on the central retrices), and the far wing shows how the primaries look when held in a more-pointed manner - and are similar to the Texas bird; I contacted the photographers (Osao Ujihara and Michiaki Ujihara) and they tell me that this photo is from Chosi, Chiba in mid-winter, and "tail-patterns like this bird are not rare, but the majority of slaty-backed gulls have less white in their tails, and a minority of them have all-dark tails like western gulls." The Texas bird would be a fair representation of such an individual that went on to spend a few months on the sunny, sandy Texas coast, no? - any comments would be appreciated - thanks.
Update: April 9, 2000:- I just received some photos from Tony Leukering of birds in westernmost Alaska, click here and here to see them; like those by Peter Post they depict first-summer SBGUs as having a darker row of scaps just above the lesser wing-coverts - see bottom of this page for a new scan of the Texas bird, pointing to three similar such darker scaps ("A"), plus a video grab by John and Barbara Ribble that shows a little more of the underwing.
Update: April 8, 2000:- I located some images of first-summer SBGUs at Robert Lewis' gull site; if you click here and look at image C (the smallish white imm. looking at the camera is quite similar to the Texas bird in build, plumage and bill pattern); image D (the four 1st-alternates in this photo all show some darker lateral scaps just above the lesser coverts), and image E (again the lateral scaps are darkest, and note the tail pattern). These photos from Siberia were taken in mid-June; keep in mind that the normal range of SBGU is much more humid and less strongly sunny than the Texas coast, thus an early April bird in Texas may easily match the degree of wear/fading normally seen on summer birds in their normal range.

This gull was photographed at La Marque Racetrack, near Galveston, Texas on the 3rd of April, 2000 by Martin Reid. The somewhat darkish eyes (just a hint of paling), worn, juvenile-looking primaries and mottled uppertail coverts ( see below) point to it being a bird molting into first- alternate plumage - yet in some ways (body and bill color, apparent color/pattern of retained worn scaps) it looks more like a 2B - 2A bird:

It was the size of a smallish HEGU:

and the newer lower scapulars ( only a few on each side) were clearly those of a dark-backed gull:

-but there is a clear pale window on the inner primaries that would be hard to explain by wear/fading alone; also look at the very dark underwing coverts next to pale flight feathers and fairly clean whitish flanks; and look at the the outer primaries: thin pale lines within the dark brown indicate pale innerwebs to at least P8, plus the outer five end in bare shafts that indicate paler tips have been worn-off:

- and that tail pattern: in the field while standing, the basal "band" was clearly paler BUT was not white - instead it was pale brownish; the dark subterminal band looked even when perched but had some irregular lengthwise protrusions into the paler basal area when spread; also note that the poor view of the under-primaries appears to show them as quite pale:

The legs were vividly rose-pink, and the secondaries were paler on the inner web such that in real life and in the flight photos there was the "venetian-blind" effect that is associated with Thayers and Slaty-backed:

I found this shot below (taken to document the presumed 1B/2B HEGU with a yellow-tipped pink bill to the right); this was the moment in the field when I first noticed this worn, darker-mantled bird with a whitish head:

- and a close-up shows how the tail looked when folded: mostly dark but with a pale brownish basal "band" (starting where arrow is pointing); also note the slightly paler central pair of rectices that are also visible in the flight shots:

The only species I can think of that fits would be a worn, female (size, head/bill structure) Slaty-backed Gull. I refer you to the segment on Dunn's LARGE GULLS video: in the introduction piece for Slaty-backed Gull at ca.1:42:35 - it shows a small female third-basic SBGU (with GLGUs and an adult Vega Gull) that in size and structure - not plumage - resembles this bird; then at 1:52:21 (a still shot of a flying 1A SBGU after a flight sequence) the commentary is saying how the tail looks "almost entirely dark", yet it shows a paler (but not white) narrow basal band; then at 1:53:28 there is a still of a juv SBGU with spread uppertail, showing extensive pale at the bases of the outer retrices; finally, look at Grant's GULLS book, photo 500 (page 336), as it depicts a 1A that shows a similar tail/rump pattern to the La Marque bird. I would appreciate receiving comments.