11 September 2014

Anybody recognize this bird?

The Windermere Basin in Hamilton is not a place I usually get.  But I am extremely fortunate in my birding friends.
I was not fortunate in the weather; the wind was blowing straight at us above 50 kph, so using a scope without one's eyes watering unto uselessness was challenging.  So was attempting to digiscope by holding a camera up to the eyepiece, but I almost managed.
100 percent crop of the next image
70x scope view via baffled camera autofocus
camera still baffled, perhaps better profile on bird
So, what is it?

My notes say:

  • lighter brown head
  • brown shoulders, mantle
  • darkens caudally
  • black chin patch
  • yellow strong bill as long as head and hooked
  • dark legs (could be black)
  • gull-shaped; heavy herringish
I was not at the time sure that the eye was yellow, or if the thing showing yellow was a nictitating membrane of some kind, but every single photo where the eye is visible has the yellow eye.  So probably.

It's a large bird; there's a photo (not shown) with a Greater Yellowlegs for scale, and this bird is much, much larger, roughly mallard-sized.  (Larger than the Caspian Terns on the other end of the little island.)

"Some sort of jaeger" is the obvious conclusion, but dark morph jaegers are supposed to have black bills.  And while I have some good gull references, jaegers are not gulls and not in them.

Anybody recognize this bird?


Mark Z said...

Juvenile something?

WhatBird has no plausible idea and it knows more than I do. :-)

Graydon said...

The bright yellow bill argues against juvenile anything, because usually that's a breeding-colour sort of thing in seabirds.

The tail and structure argue for some kind of jaeger and those have dark morphs but none of the morphs, light, dark, or intermediate, have yellow bills.

Going to have to find someone who knows more than my available references.