An Unprecedented Invasion of Gulls in Pittsburgh
The winter of 2007 brought an invasion of gulls to the Three Rivers area on a scale never before witnessed. With these
gulls came two first-county records, as well as other rarities in numbers never imagined. Just about every local record related
to gulls fell in February 2007. In all, eight species of gull were recorded as of this writing. All eight (Ring-billed, Herring,
Bonaparte's, Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, Glaucous, Iceland, and Thayer's) were all recorded in a single week,
and seven (all but Bonaparte's) were recorded in a single day--February 10. Both easily surpassed the previous local records.
This page is a photo gallery featuring the better pictures I captured during the event's peak (to date) in February.
Look for a comprehensive review of the entire season, including some interesting historical perspective, in an upcoming issue
of Pennsylvania Birds.
At least six Iceland Gulls were found throughout the month of February--four first-winter birds and two second-winter
birds. Prior to 2007, there were only three Iceland Gull records for Allegheny County. I, and perhaps others, personally
observed as many as five Iceland Gulls in a single day, clearly a local record.
At least three (and possibly four) Glaucous Gulls were recorded beginning with a first-winter bird found on February
8 by Dan Yagusic--the bird that started it all (pictured below). Later, another first-winter Glaucous and a beautiful
third-winter bird were also recorded. Dan Yagusic also located what might have been a third first-winter bird (making four
in total) but sadly this was never confirmed as a distinct individual. The picture of the standing Glaucous Gull below was
featured in this article
in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on February 11.
On February 10, Dave Wilton found an adult Thayer's Gull, and fortunately I was only a few minutes away so I was able
to rush over and grab the picture seen below. Unfortunately this bird departed within 10 minutes and was not seen again. Obviously,
this was a first county record. Beginning February 12, several of us found what appeared to be a first-winter Thayer's Gull,
but unfortunately for the first few days it only appeared at dusk and did not allow any decent photos. Finally, on the 16th
and the 18th, and only after a lengthly vigil in finger-numbing wind-chills, I was able to obtain flight shots which
show the expected wing pattern of a Thayer's Gull. Still, there was a long and intriguing debate as to whether this bird could
actually be separated from Kumlien's Gull. Ultimately, most involved in the discussion agreed that it was OK for Thayer's.
for photos of this bird and some discussion about the ID.
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Two adults were found during the second week of February, making for the sixth record of this species in county history.
One of these two was likely the same as a bird first reported by Mark Vass on January 28 on the Monongahela River.
Great Black-backed Gull
Though this species is definitely an increasing winter visitor in Allegheny County in the last 15 years, there were at
least five and likely six different individuals present in February 2007, a local seasonal record.
Click on any photo below for a larger version.