Learning about Bonaparte’s gull

  • <p>JAMES HIRTLE PHOTO</p><p>A Bonapart&#8217;s gull riding the waves at Mason&#8217;s Beach.</p>

On June 11, Barbara McLean found a Bonaparte's gull at Mason's Beach. Although this bird had an odd plumage and a larger than normal bill, Eric Mills, our resident gull expert, confirmed Barbara's identification. The Bonaparte's gull was given it's name by a Philadelphia scientist named George Ord for Charles Lucien Bonaparte, who was a French zoologist, who lived for a time in Philadelphia.

The Bonaparte's gull nests in Alaska, the Yukon, Mackenzie, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and in Alberta and British Columbia. A few may summer in the United States. They winter in Washington state to Baja California and from Ontario, New York and New England south to Florida, Louisiana, Texas and Bermuda.

The Bonaparte's gull is the smallest American gull being 30 to 35 cm long with a wingspread of 90 cm. The adult in summer has a black head with a gray mantle, white underparts, a white tail and white outer primaries, and red-orange legs. The bill is small and black. In the winter the black head becomes white with a conspicuous round black spot behind each eye.

The Bonaparte's gull feeds largely on insects when inland or fish at the surface of lakes and bays. It scavenges in harbours and around sewer outlets and also eats crustaceans and marine worms.

On June 11, Laura Baker of Tancook Island was lucky enough to have two black-bellied whistling ducks drop by her backyard. These ducks did not stay around and had left the island by the next day.

Kevin Lantz sighted a female blue-winged teal at Steaverman's Lake in Lilydale on June 13. Mary Silver phoned to report that she enjoyed watching American goldfinches as they fed upon the seeds in the fluff of dandelions. Mary also told me that she has lots of ruby-throated hummingbirds.

On June 2, Carl Haycock of Brier Island saw 19 eastern bluebirds and a black-crowned night heron. Two laughing gulls were seen by Rick Whitman at Scots Bay Park beach on June 9. On June 12, Lyall Bouchard sighted one at Margaretsville. There has also been one hanging around Cape Sable Island as reported by Mark Dennis. This adult has been seen by many observers since June 7.

Paul Gould sighted a male scarlet tanager at Chebogue Point in Yarmouth on June 5. On June 7, Cape Sable Island was a hotspot with four eastern bluebirds, a snowy egret, two red knots, a short-billed dowitcher and a Manx shearwater. All of these birds were seen by Mark Dennis on that day. Logan Lalonde heard a mourning warbler calling on territory by Point Pleasant Park in Halifax on June 13.

You may reach me at (902) 693-2174 or email jrhbirder@hotmail.com

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