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This large gull was at Corpus Christi Landfill, Texas on January 13 and 16, 2001 (photos by Willie Sekula); it appears to be the same individual photographed at this location in February 2000 (click here to see the original pages); I finally saw this bird for the first time on January 16, 2001, and was immediately struck by three things:- 1) its general bulk and walking movements were more like HERG than LBBG, but in flight it was much more LBBG-like; 2) the legs were more yellowish than is apparent in the photos (all taken January 13) - a similar comment was made by the original observers of the Feb 2000 bird); 3) the very short tail and long wings (despite not yet being fully-grown) gave the bird a distinctive long, tapered rear-end:

- here are two photos of the presumed same individual from the previous winter: this one by Willie Sekula from mid-February, 2000:

- and this one was taken March 7, 2000 by Mel Cooksey:

- now back to photos of this bird from January 2001:-

- so is this the same bird as last year? Differences are minor and some could be temporal (mid-Jan vs mid-Feb/early March), but include: subtlely different pattern to the winter markings on the head; observers who have seen the bird both times feel that the legs look slightly yellower and the eyes look slightly darker this year; the primary mirrors appear slightly smaller and further from the wingtip compared to last year (an odd progression); the white apical spot on P6 is oddly small this year; with lots of HERGs to compare it with, it appears to be the size of an average smith HERG (observers from both years feel that they evaluated this aspect more accurately this year than last year). Observers from both years are convinced it is the same bird, but what are the implications if this is not the same bird as last year? Compare the features shown by this bird to these gulls in Oman (allowing for temporal differences in winter markings, and the harsh desert sun making the mantles look darker than in real-life), and look at this "LBBG" from 1997 - could it too be the same bird??? It is tempting (and perhaps appropriate) to consider the LBBG x HERG option for this bird, but I would ask anyone who seriously supports this theory to contemplate two anomolies: A) HERG is pale-eyed and LBBG is even paler-eyed, but this bird is "medium-eyed"; B) regarding the tail-tip relative to the primary apical spots, HERG falls below P7 and graellsii LBBG falls half-way between P7 and P6 - this bird is slightly shorter than the tip of P6 (as are many normal heuglini and especially the "Big Pale Heuglini"-types). As to size, look at this revealing page of specimens from the BMNH:

Public feedback from experienced gullers for last year's bird is availible here.