Status and Occurrence of Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) in British Columbia
by Rick Toochin and Don Cecile
Read the full article with photos here.
Introduction and Distribution
The Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) is found in the Old World from Iceland to Siberia (Olsen and Larsson 2004). The species winters from Europe, throughout the Mediterranean Sea, parts of North Africa, India, Southeast Asia to Japan (Olsen and Larsson 2004). In North America, the Black-headed Gull breeds locally in Newfoundland and Labrador (Dunn and Alderfer 2011). It occurs in numbers along the east coast of North America and with great frequency throughout the eastern states and provinces (Olsen and Larsson 2004). It is a very rare species in the mid-western states and provinces (Olsen and Larsson 2004). Alberta has only 1 recent accepted Provincial record (Hudon et al. 2014). Along the west coast of North America, the Black-headed Gull is a rare migrant in western Alaska in both the Aleutian Islands and the Bering Sea region (West 2008, Gibson et al. 2013). This species becomes much rarer the further east and south you travel in the state and is a casual visitor in southeastern Alaska (West 2008). In Washington State, there are 16 accepted records by the Washington Bird Records Committee (Wahl et al. 2005, WBRC 2012). There are only 3 accepted records in Oregon by the Oregon Rare birds Committee (OFO 2012). The species is also quite a rarity in California where there are only 22 accepted state records by the California Bird Records Committee (Hamilton et al. 2007, Tietz and McCaskie 2014).
In British Columbia, the Black-headed Gull is a casually occurring species with just over 20 records for the province (Campbell et al. 1990b, Toochin et al. 2014a, see Table 1). The Black-headed Gull is accidental in Cuba, Trinidad, Surinam, French Guiana and Hawaii (Hamilton et al. 2007).
Occurrence and Documentation
The Black-headed Gull is a casual species in British Columbia with 24 Provincial Records (Campbell et al. 1990b, Toochin et al. 2014a, see Table 1). Almost all records are of birds seen along the coastline where Bonaparte’s Gulls are found in large numbers (Campbell et al. 1990b, Toochin et al. 2014a, see Table 1). There are no interior records for the Province (Campbell et al. 1990b, Toochin et al. 2014a, see Table 1). Out of the 24 Provincial records, 18 of these are from Vancouver Island with the vast majority coming from the Victoria area (Toochin et al. 2014b). There are 4 records from the Vancouver area and 2 records from the Sunshine Coast to Powell River region (Toochin et al. 2014a, see Table 1). The records for the Province are almost exclusively from the fall period from August – November (Toochin et al. 2014a, see Table 1). There are 3 records of birds either staying into or found in the winter with one bird in Delta wintering until early March (Toochin et al. 2014a, see Table 1) . There are no spring records for the British Columbia region (Toochin et al. 2014a, see Table 1). There are 2 summer records of 1st summer birds from June and July (Toochin et al. 2014a, see Table 1). The pattern of vagrancy in British Columbia is mirrored by other states along the west coast of North America. In California, the Black-headed Gull has been found throughout the year, but most records are for the winter months (Hamilton et al. 2007, Tietz and McCaskie 2014). In Oregon there are only a handful of records, but there are a couple of winter observations (OFO 2012). In Washington State, the pattern is similar to British Columbia, but there are many more wintering records and even a couple of spring observations (Wahl et al. 2005, WBRC 2012). It would seem logical given the number of documented birds that have been recorded wintering from California to Washington there should be a spring record of Black-headed Gull found in British Columbia in the future. It is unclear if birds that are found in British Columbia originate from the east coast of North America or come from birds that migrate from Siberia into Alaska (Hamilton et al. 2007). Observers should always check carefully through all small gulls, particularly Bonaparte’s Gulls, for this beautiful rarity. It is much more likely to turn up along the coast of the province, but interior birders should pay attention as well, as this species could turn anywhere in the future.