Sunday, December 8, 2013
Franklin's Gull at Lafreniere Park
Today I made a brief swing by Lafreniere Park at 2:30 pm. Among the horde of gulls attracted to some visitors feeding bread at the end of the boardwalk were 170 Laughing, 70 Ring-billed, and a lone Franklin's Gull. The latter is a fancy bird here, probably not recorded annually in southeast Louisiana (though more regular in the western part of the state).
The bird allowed close approach, to about 7 feet, on the grass with the other gulls after they had taken to loafing when the bread disappeared. The bird looks a lot like the Laughing Gulls present, differing most notably in the more extensive black on the head, forming a broad patch on both cheeks, crossing over the crown, accentuating the bird's white eye crescents.
For those without much gulling experience, the best way to pick it out is to scan the flock here for birds with usually much black on the head. Some of the Laughers have enough gray on the side of face to allow eye crescents to form, but this bird is a strikingly blacker shade there and has much more of it. Other nuanced differences are its smaller size than the Laughers and more petite bill. The Ring-billed Gulls they are consorting with are much larger and paler than either the Laughers or the Franklin's.
The Franklin's was a bird in its first winter, as indicated by the extensive brown mottling on the wings. This contrasts noticeably with the slate gray back- another good way to pick it out. Because almost all the Laughings were adults, and these have the wings the same slate color as the back, that is a good second feature to check if you are looking and think you may have found it. It has brown wings. Only one of the 170 Laughers there today had brown wings (which also indicates immaturity for that species).
Other birds were scores of both coots and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, the usual hordes of White Ibis, and a lone male Lesser Scaup from the boardwalk, my first of the fall/winter.
The gulls probably move in and out, so it may not end up being as consistent as the Iceland Gull is in Mandeville- but we shall see!
For a copy of Birding Made Easy-New Orleans, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or look for it at area book stores. It is now available at
Uptown: Garden District Book Shop, Maple Street Book Shop
French Quarter and Marigny: Peach Records, Fauborg Marigny Art Books Music, Librairie Book Shop, Beckham's Bookshop, Arcadian Books and Prints, the Crabnet
Mid City: City Park Botanical Garden, Community Book Center
North Shore: Mandeville Chiropractic