Ross's Gull, Rhodostethia rosea


Ross's Gull
Ross's Gulls are among the most glamorous of North American birds, small, delicate, and beautiful, yet mostly confined to the inhospitable far north, where they breed in tundra up to the edge of the Arctic Ocean. From there, once the short nesting season ends, instead of migrating south in winter like most northern nesters, they head northward into the frozen dark of the far arctic. Only a few hundred of their nests have been discovered in scattered arctic and sub-arctic sites in Siberia, northern Canada, and Greenland, often in colonies including Arctic Terns. Very little is known about exactly where they go and how they live in the forbidding conditions of their wintering grounds, though it is thought they feed on areas of open water by the pack ice. Only a few of them have headed so far in the wrong direction as to have strayed to the lower 48 in winter.

These rare appearances
inevitably stir nearly unrivalled excitement among birders, and the sighting of this bird was no exception. It was first reported January 12, 2017 in Half Moon Bay on the California coast south of San Francisco by Don Pendleton, and news of its presence quickly spread far and wide, drawing rapt crowds that day and the following two. But its visit came to a shocking end on the afternoon of January 14, when it was captured in flight and killed in full view of scores of observers near Half Moon Bay Airport by one of a pair of Peregrine Falcons that had spotted it. 

These photos were taken in a field across from the airport on the morning of that final day.


Ross's Gull
This picture shows the pink or "rosy" hue that gives the species its distinguishing name, rosea; its orginal common name in English was Rosy Gull. The pink is at most a faint wash on the white areas of the bird's non-breeding plumage, as shown here, where it is also partly obscured by a brown stain from dirt in the water; at other angles or with slight changes in the light or in post-processing, it doesn't show at all, as in other photos on this page. But in the spectacular breeding plumage of spring, the pink color can be conspicuous indeed, with its effect enhanced by an elegant thin black collar; see these photos, from Newfoundland, Bruce Mactavish; and this one, from Alaska, Doug Gochfeld (with thanks to the photographers for permission to link.)

Ross's Gull


Ross's Gull

Ross's Gull

Ross's Gull

Ross's Gull

Ross's Gull

Ross's Gull

Ross's Gull

Ross's Gull

Ross's Gull