Mew Gull on Ambleside Beach

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Mew Gull (breeding plumage) | Goéland cendré | Larus canus brachyrhynchus*: I found this Mew Gull among the much-larger Glaucous-winged Gulls on Ambleside Beach in West Vancouver (British Columbia), Canada, on April 20, 2016.

As “luck” would have it, a woman was busily (and obliviously) walking toward this gull from the other side, but although she did scare the bird away, I was able to capture this rather nice shot with its wings completely extended vertically, before the takeoff.

Taken with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (ISO 400 | 500mm | f/6.3 | 1/1600, cropped for composition). Not baited, called in or set up.

*NOTE: An interesting discussion has arisen on the North American Gulls Facebook group: Most seem to think (and I agree) that this is not in fact the North American subspecies (or Mew Gull), but a sub-species of the Common Gull (most experts believe Mew and Common are conspecific). If we arrive at a 99% or better consensus, I may revise the sub-species a bit later.

Mew Gull in flight

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Mew Gull (Goéland cendré | Larus canus): Taken January 9, 2016 from Jericho Pier, at the eastern end of Locarno Beach in Vancouver (British Columbia), Canada with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (ISO 400 | 500mm | f/7.1 | 1/2000). Cropped. Not baited, called in or set up.

Why do Mew Gulls do that?

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Mew Gull (Goéland cendré | Larus canus): Before I continue posting a few more of the bird photos I took in Kaua’i over the holidays, I thought I would post something I took last weekend right here in Vancouver. Aside from the fact that I like this photo, I would also like to test the collective wisdom of my followers to answer the following question: Why do Mew Gulls (like the one pictured here) dunk their bills repeatedly in the water when they are flying? Since they to do not seem to be taking a drink or catching any fish/crustaceans/seaweed (or anything else, for that matter), I was not sure why this was happening.

Since I took this picture, however, I have received several suggestions on various explanations on a number of Facebook groups. The two most compelling reasons I have heard are that it is doing this to attract fish to the surface of the water or (my favoured explanation) it does this to clean its bill of food and other debris, including fish scales and the like.

Thoughts?

Taken January 9, 2016 from Jericho Pier, at the eastern end of Locarno Beach in Vancouver (British Columbia), Canada with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR (ISO 400 | 500mm | f/5.6 | 1/1600). Cropped. Not baited, called in or set up.

Mew Gull (winter plumage) in West Vancouver

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Mew Gull (winter plumage) | Goéland cendré | Larus canus brachyrhynchus: Did you know that the Mew Gull is a subspecies of the Common Gull? Most are seen in Asia and Europe, but this particular subspecies is seen on North America’s Pacific coast, including Alaska. Taken on October 21, 2015, in Ambleside Park, West Vancouver (British Columbia), Canada, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED (ISO 640 | 300mm | f/5.6 | 1/800, cropped for composition). Not baited, called in or set up.

Mew Gull at Wreck Beach

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Mew Gull (winter) / Goéland cendré / Larus canus: Taken January 9, 2015 at Wreck Beach in Pacific Spirit Regional Park, close to the Point Grey campus of the University of British Columbia, with a handheld Nikon D5200 and AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED (ISO 800, 300mm, f/5.6, 1/1000). Not baited, called in or set up.