Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Mega-oops: Black-Headed Gull in Chicago?

Birders are, by nature, a skeptical lot. We're not just talking about woodpeckers here, but just about any rare or unusual bird is questioned until it is seen well by multiple observers, and even then, records commitees are still not always convinced. That's the way the game is played.

Sometimes, though, this innate skepticism can turn around and bite you on the ass.

Case in point: On Saturday, a Chicago-area birder posted that the thought he saw a Black-headed Gull being fed bread at Chicago's most famous birding spot, Montrose Harbor. It was a pretty decent but cautious description; even though the original observer noted a red bill (a pretty darn unusual characteristic for a winter gull in Chicago!), the first reaction of most birders was probably "C'mon, a Black-Headed Gull? Be serious!" And then, the reaction was silence. Nobody went to check out the bird, or if they did, they didn't say anything about it. (We have an excuse--we were in Germany!) Today, a full four days later, there is a post by another birder confirming the Black-headed Gull. Yikes!

How long has the bird been present? How long will it stay? Nobody knows, but there is one thing we know for certain: there will be a lot of BSDs (Birder Sick Days) today in Chicago.

UPDATE: Photos are here: http://www.chicagobirds.com/photos/thumbnails.php?album=70

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm really surprised that nobody looked. Black-headed Gull could show up just about anywhere in the continent.

Wasn't there a Kelp Gull somewhere near Chicago a few years ago?

Birding is NOT a crime!!!! said...

Don't think there has been a Kelp Gull, not in Illinois, at least. Maybe at Miller Beach in Indiana? We did have a Black-tailed Gull, though, also at Montrose.

We know East Coast birders might not be too shocked at the appearance of a Black-headed Gull, but there are probably less than 25 records for the whole state of Illinois, and there hasn't been one in the Chicago area that we can recall in the last ten years or longer. So most of the active Chicago-area biders don't have this one on their state list.