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Rare visiting bird to Florida observed on Sanibel

By SCCF - | Mar 3, 2021

SCCF Iceland gull

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation staff and volunteers recently participated in the 13th Annual Florida Winter Shorebird Survey to better understand the winter distribution of shorebirds and seabirds and identify long-term trends or changes in winter populations. They counted 2,443 individuals of 25 different species.

One of the most interesting and unexpected observations was an all-white gull on the East End of Sanibel on Feb. 8. Staff took several photographs of it before moving on to help an injured pelican. Upon closer inspection of the photographs later and consultation with local birders and experts, it was determined to be an Iceland gull — an extremely rare visitor — SCCF Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht said.

Iceland gulls nest in Arctic Canada and are typically not seen this far south in the winter. The bird had an orange mark on its neck, which could be related to an injury or some type of staining, she said.

Several banded birds were observed as well, including a 20-year-old banded royal tern. It was banded as a chick with number 814-48719 in Lola, North Carolina, in July 2001.

“Unfortunately, several sick and dead royal terns were observed as well,” Albrecht said. “SCCF is working closely with partner agencies, including CROW, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission and the city of Sanibel, to monitor conditions affecting these birds.”

For questions about shorebirds or unusual sightings, contact shorebirds@sccf.org.