I agree with Bob Lewis that it's worthwhile thinking about (and discussing)
the origins of any major rarity, if only to learn more about the movements
and range of the species. Discussions should include the question of
'precedence', meaning a pattern of occurrence beyond the normal range. This
often lends weight to the idea that a bird could reach some distant spot by
its own devices. This is topic that bird record committees, including
NYSARC, will carefully research and incorporate into its deliberations.
Sometimes even the most unexpected species may not be so unexpected when you
look at where it has wandered in the past, but of course there can be true
exceptions that break the mold.

With regard to Gray-Hooded Gull, I would argue there is some precedent but
agree that iit is clearly not as compelling as say with Black-tailed Gull,
an ostensibly Japanese species that has shown up multiple times on the
eastern seaboards including NYS, especially in the mid-90's. The very first
Black-tailed Gull sightings on the west coast were met with suspicion but
with careful documentation a compelling pattern of infiltration across North
America emerged. This is why it is important to document and report
so-called 'exotics'.

Obviously we have the Florida Gray-hooded Gull record (Apalachicola, 26 Dec
1998), which I admit I was skeptical of when it was first published in North
American Birds and accepted by the ABA Checklist Committee in 2003. This
location is on the gulf coast between Panama City and Tallahassee. There are
additional extralimital records of Gray-hooded Gull from central America
(Panama) and the Galapagos Islands. In Europe there is at least one record
from Spain (presumably the African population) and another from either Egypt
or Israel (need to track down details). I'd be very interested to know of
other examples of extralimital sightings of this species that would flesh
out this scenario.

Although many people seem to favor a South American origin (free-flying or
ship-assisted), it is worth noting that Spain is about the same latitude as
New York and I can't help thinking of the Western Reef Heron (which has a
similar range to Gray-hooded Gull on the west coast of Africa) that spent
the summer less than a mile from Coney Island back in 2009.

The idea that Laughing Gull would serve as a carrier species is appealing.
They have some affinity and there was a report of a mixed Gray-hooded Gull -
Laughing Gull pairing in Senegal in 1983. There is banding data to support
the idea that Laughing Gulls from North America winter in South America,
with those in the Gulf of Mexico, Florida and the Caribbean being slightly
less mobile.

Anyway, this is all food for thought. As others have already mentioned, a
key issue is try to pindown the subspecies involved which is not such an
easy task. More on this later.

Has anyone seen the gull today? I've not heard of any positive sightings.

Cheers, Angus Wilson
New York City


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