Elegant gull sighting has birders aflutter

Josh Pennell
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It’s the kind of bird that can put all the local gulls to shame, and not just because it likely won’t be beaking through your trash.

The Ross’s gull breeds mostly in northern Russia and winters offshore in parts unknown. This is the first time one has been seen in this province since 1991.

“It’s pretty rare, even on a worldwide scale,” says bird enthusiast and Telegram columnist Bruce Mactavish.

In fact, it’s the first time since 1991 that a Ross’s gull has been spotted in this province. The main population breeds in northern Russia, though Mactavish says a handful are known to breed in the Canadian Arctic. He’s seen a couple in his lifetime, including that 1991 visitor.

“But still, it’s a very exciting bird no matter where you’re from, because it’s just a hard bird to see,” Mactavish says.

“And it’s kind of an elegant, pretty little bird with a lot of mystique around it. They don’t even know where most of them spend the winter.”

There’s a few thousand somewhere in Siberia each summer, but come winter they head far out to sea. It’s thought that the ones that breed in the Canadian north head off the coast of Labrador. Way, way off the coast. Mactavish suggests the one seen here now was blown in by the constant northeast winds we’ve been getting. This bird was spotted off Torbay beach on Tuesday by somebody who didn’t quite know what it was but described it on a birdwatching news group. Mactavish took off for the beach.

“It took awhile to see it. It was pretty far out. But it was a Ross’s gull,” he says. “That coastline is very rugged and the northeast wind was driving a swell in there creating all this. … It was kind of a tideline full of debris that it was picking around in.”

As for why it may be slightly more popular than the local gulls —rarity is certainly a big factor. And well, not to split feathers or anything, but the Ross’s gull has got the looks.

“They are famous for having a pink blush on their breast and their head, but this one is very strongly coloured. It’s a very bright sort of salmon pink. It’s a little bit of orange,” says Mactavish.

That, coupled with pearly grey underwings, makes this gull a real catch.

But if you take yourself down to Torbay beach for a look, bring a spotting scope. While it may stand out from the crowd, Mactavish says you’ll be hard pressed to get a lock on this birdy with a set of binoculars.

Geographic location: Northern Russia, Torbay, Siberia Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Cashin Delaney
    April 30, 2014 - 22:38

    We should not tolerate Russian interlopers in our airspace. These gulls may be trained weapons, like the blue whale attacks. Typically, the mainstream liberal communist-supporting media has spun these as harmless, even celebratory!, events, while exaggerating domestic cat, now rat and coyote problems. Lawsuits on our moose, while dangerous Russian reindeer stare ominously across the taiga at our free and beautiful Canada. Now we know why the F-35s are needed. How do we face this threat with mere CF-18s? Pinko Gulls must be exterminated if a democractic western world is to be preserved.

    • Cher
      May 01, 2014 - 10:28

      LOL @ Cashin Delaney