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Update: 4/25/00:- Willie just sent these photos from another roll of film just developed - they show much more important detail; scroll to the bottom of this page:

This gull was photographed at Brownsville Landfill, south Texas on the 8th of April, 2000 by Willie Sekula. Initially it looks rather like a large, bulky LBBG - or possibly a small GBBG:

- but I feel it has a number of unusual features for either of these species: the bill looks to be too blunt and blob-ended for LBBG, but not really massive enough for GBBG:
these look like fresh median/lesser coverts in the center of the wing: 

- and isn't that a fresh, mostly-pale innermost greater covert?
Note the extensive wear in the remaining inner/central greater coverts, and on the tertial tips:

- and these rather thin dark scap. centers with thin, flat anchors seem too extreme for LBBG:

On the opposite wing again the innermost greater covert looks a bit fresher and more patterned, and there seems to be a patch of lesser/median coverts with thicker white fringes:

note the undertail coverts and lower flanks:


Most of the lesser coverts and many of the median coverts appear to be fresher feathers with broad white fringes.

 Look at the greater coverts: the central/inner ones are plain with extreme wear, while two inner feathers look fresher and with a large white subterminal band, and the outermost 8 or 9 look much fresher with an unworn thin white fringe and thicker white sides.

Also the outermost two secondaries look more worn at the tips than the remaining secondaries.

Finally, note that the longest two tertials have large white subterminal tips with a dark shaft streak and very thin terminal dark line - this despite the wear evident in earlier images:

the inner primaries have a very dull "panel" formed by slightly paler inner webs:

Note the striking diamond-shaped blackish shapes on the lower back, rump and uppertail coverts, which become much smaller and more-sparse laterally; the tail lacks a white terminal band (perhaps it has worn off?):

there are a few heavily-worn lower scaps with just the triangular dark center remaining, but most of the scaps look to be fresher types with double-anchor patterns:

the right wing again shows the plain-centered, contrastingly-fresh outer 8 or 9 greater coverts:

with the tail almost folded the black terminal band appears to be extensive and even:

So what is this bird? it bears an uncanny resemblence to the mystery Corpus Christi bird from 1996 that many thought was a GBBG; this latest bird again defied all attempts to document it in profile, but at least it revealed more fine-detail. I this a weird LBBG? the extensive degree of covert-replacement in early April seems wrong; as does the patten of the fresh scaps (and the bill shape). Could it be a GBBG? the black tail band looks too thick and uniform; I don't know if GBBG replaces this many coverts during the first winter, but even the older retained greater coverts are very plain for this species, and surely the fresh new outer ones would have at least some internal marks?. Once more I find myself wondering about YLGU.....I am struck by how much IMAGE "X" above reminds me of the YLGU in the comparative wing photo 125, page 378 of British Birds Vol. 90 No. 9 (Sept '97) - the article by Garner, Quinn, and Glover on identifying YLGUs. I would appreciate receiving comments.

Update: 4/25/00:- new photos:

I feel that these images add to the uncertainty; the mantle/scap pattern is fairly typical of GBBG, as are the underparts pattern, but the tail pattern, greater-coverts, size, structure ( especially length of outer wing and narrowness of inner wing), and inner primary pattern are much more like LBBG. I've heard it said that some YLGUs can look like a confusing combination of LBBG and GBBG... Anyway, Norman Van Swelm made a timely ( if gruesome) discovery that may help with this puzzle - take a look here.