#542 Gray-hooded Gull

Yesterday morning Doug Gochfeld, the eBird moderator for Kings County, alerted us that an apparent Gray-hooded Gull had been found and photographed on Monday in Coney Island. Apparently it was initially misidentified as a Black-headed Gull–a rare but not mega-rare species around here–so no one paid much attention. It wasn’t until some experts got a look at the photographs to confirm the Black-headed Gull ID that someone realized that this in fact was not a a Black-headed Gull at all at all but instead the Southern Hemisphere species Gray-hooded Gull! A few hardy souls traipsed out to Coney Island yesterday, and around 5:00 PM Shane Blodgett relocated the bird. I heard this around 6:30 PM and decided there wasn’t quite enough light left to make the trek out to Coney Island, which was fortunate because, as I later learned, the bird took off before I could have even left, and only a handful of folks spotted it. The rest were left searching in the rain.

This morning I hear there were upwards of seventy birders scanning the beaches early in the AM. However since the bird had flown off the previous night, and was more likely to be found nearer the second high tide, I decided to hang out in my air conditioned apartment and take the chance that if it was seen again I could get out there fast enough before it took off again.

Around noon, word went out that the bird had just flown in to the same location, so I hopped the S to the Q to Coney Island. I got off at 8th Street/New York Aquarium and walked west down the boardwalk. Somehow I managed to miss the gaggle of birders, and got all the way to 23rd street before I got a phone call telling me to head back east to the Wonder Wheel. And when I arrived, there the bird was, perched on a volleyball pole. Or was it? I swear I couldn’t tell if I was looking at a Laughing Gull or a Gray-hooded Gull. But then the bird took off and flew right past me, and at close range in flight it was a lot more obvious. Bingo! #542. A little later the bird returned and posed for photos:

I left after about an hour, but the bird continued flying away and returning until at least 3:45 PM. I may go back tomorrow to try for some better photographs.

If accepted by the New York State Avian Records Committee (and unless some zoo lost a Gray-hooded Gull recently I can’t see why it wouldn’t be) this will be only the second record for this species in the ABA area. The first was in Florida in 1998. This is also also my second category 5 bird. The first was 2007’s Western Reef Heron just a few blocks down the street at Drier-Offerman/Calvert Vaux Park. Category 5’s are the rarest of the rare. And now I’ve seen two within a subway ride! (Category 6 birds are believed to be extinct.)

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