Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

Franklin's Gulls, LARUS PIPIXCAN, in a parking lot in Texas

from the the April 1, 2012 on-the-road Newsletter based on notes and pictures from a few miles south of Kingsvillee, Texas, USA

To give everyone a rest after all the border-crossing hassle and the long stretch north through endless but beautiful Mesquite, the bus pulled into a big truckstop a few miles south of Kingsville, southern Texas. Seagulls dotted the vast asphalt parking lot, each bird quietly keeping to itself, as shown above.

It was easy to walk up to a gull for the portrait shown below:

Franklin's Gull, LARUS PIPIXCAN

This is a Franklin's Gull, LARUS PIPIXCAN, very similar to the Laughing Gull we saw last year down at Marcia's on the Caribbean coast. The difference is the white feather tips at the ends of the wings. Laughing Gulls don't have those.

Also different are the two species' habits. Laughing Gulls are a coastal species, but Franklin's Gulls are the comon gull of the American prairies, breeding mostly in south-central Canada, but migrating through the US central states. We're catching these as they migrate north.

The birds at mid morning were quiet, only one or two pairs occasionally halfheartedly raising their beaks skywards and calling during brief courtship displays.

from the March 29, 2015 Newsletter issued from Río Lagartos, on the north-central coast of Yucatán, MÉXICO

During the winter our most abundant gull here, by a long shot, is the Laughing Gull, which during early winter is a nondescript, dark-backed gull with a dingy head. Nowadays as spring approaches, the heads of more and more Laughing Gulls are abandoning their winter plumage and developing conspicuous, handsome, black "hoods."

This week gulls turned up displaying the same basic plumages as Laughing Gulls, but something about them was different. Some are shown below:

Franklin's Gull, LARUS PIPIXCAN, in the Yucatan

They're Franklin's Gulls, recognizable as such by the white spots near the tips of their wings. They're migrating north to their nesting grounds in south-central Canada and the north-central US, and are found here only during migrations. They're the common gull of the American prairies, and they've just overwintered along the Pacific coast of South America. In North America normally you don't have to worry about confusing Franklin's Gulls with Laughing Gulls because Franklin's Gulls occur in mid-continent, while Laughing Gulls are coastal.

It's a little surprising to see so many Franklin's Gulls here, for their main migratory route is along southern Mexico's Pacific coast, then northward through central and eastern Mexico. However, they're known to be rare winter visitors here along the Yucatan Peninsula's northern coast. Diego says that this year we're seeing an unusually high number of them.

Anyway, this is more proof that spring really is coming.