Kelp Gull,  Larus dominicanus

Number of accepted Kelp Gull records for Louisiana = 4 as of June 2015

Accepted Records

A pair of adults (89-173) on 8 Jul 1989, St. Bernard: Breton NWR, Chandeleur Islands, Curlew Island; R. D. Purrington and Lawrence O’Meallie (ph). This is the first record of Kelp Gull for Louisiana and the United States. The record was initially submitted as Lesser Black-backed Gull, which received a non-accept vote on the first circulation; the record was subsequently re-submitted (Dittmann) and accepted as Kelp Gull.

Photo by Lawrence O'Meallie

One adult (90-45), paired to a Herring Gull and accompanied by a full-grown fledgling, on 31 Jul 1990, St. Bernard: Breton NWR, Chandeleur Islands, North Gosier Island; Richard Martin (ph). This represents the second state record of Kelp Gull and the first confirmed breeding of Herring and Kelp gulls for Louisiana.

After the Committee agreed that the identification of the "black-backed gulls" on the Chandeleur Islands was consistent with Kelp Gull, the issue of origin remained a concern. The Committee wrestled with how best to deal with the status of this species in Louisiana, because their appearance in the Gulf of Mexico was coincidental with an importation of eggs and subsequent distribution of captive bred birds by Sea World, Inc. (Dittmann and Cardiff 1998). Recent records of Kelp Gulls on the coasts of Texas (Texas Bird Records Committee reports), the Yucatan Peninsula (Howell et al. 1993), and Trinidad (Hayes et al. 2000), suggest that range expansion into the Gulf-Caribbean region may be in progress. Additionally, in the eastern Atlantic, the species has moved up the coast of West Africa to Senegambia (Urban et al. 1986) and Mauritania (Pineau et al. 2001; interestingly, Kelp Gulls reaching Mauritania have been reported to hybridize with Yellow-legged Gull [Larus michahellis]), and, in the Pacific, the species has extended its breeding range north to Ecuador (Haase 1996); there is also a recent record from Christmas Island in the central Pacific Ocean (H. Lee Jones, ms in prep). The Committee ultimately decided that, in light of recent patterns of vagrancy and range expansion, natural origin was much more plausible than a convoluted scenario based on escape of multiple captive-bred individuals and their subsequent breeding in the Gulf of Mexico.

One adult in breeding plumage (1992-087) on 5 June 1992, Cameron: ca 2 mi. W old mouth Mermentau River (Rutherford Beach); John P. Sevenair, Curtis C. Sorrells, Phillip A. Wallace (ph), and Alfred E. and Gwen B. Smalley (ph). This record was initially submitted as a Great Black-backed Gull and then as a Yellow-footed Gull, neither of which were accepted. Records certainly pertained to the same bird, which was eventually re-identified as a Kelp, circulated as such, and accepted.

Photos by Gwen B. Smalley

One adult in breeding plumage (1992-088) on 13 June 1992, Cameron: ca 8 mi. W old mouth Mermentau River (Rutherford Beach); Joseph P. Kleiman. This record, originally submitted as a Lesser Black-backed Gull, was accepted as a Kelp Gull based on the description, combined with date and location, and almost certainly represented the same bird as 1992-87.

See also Origins and Identification of Kelp x Herring Gull Hybrids: The ‘Chandeleur Gull’, by Donna L. Dittmann & Stephen W. Cardiff (from Birding, May/June 2005, pp. 266–276.

Unaccepted Records

One adult (1994-36) on 19 Aug 1994, St. Bernard: breakwater at Baptiste Collette Bayou, NE to entrance of Mississippi River; NASFN49(1):59. This record was considered unacceptable following the second circulation by a narrow vote (3 in favor, 4 against). The single photograph and accompanying description did not convince dissenting members that a relatively “Kelp-like” backcross hybrid Kelp X Herring Gull (“Chandeleur Gull”) could be satisfactorily eliminated. Accepting members cited the very dark mantle and robust proportions consistent with Kelp Gull.

One molting adult (1996-084) on 28 April 1996, Cameron: Broussard Beach. This was an interesting bird, initially assumed to be the same Kelp Gull that had recently been observed at Galveston, TX and reported to have a black mantle and greenish-colored legs. However, this bird was also seen by two of the Committee Members, who reported size, leg color (grayish ivory), and mantle color better supported identification as a Great Black-backed Gull or Great Black-backed hybrid.