SECOND NEW BIRD FOR ST. KITTS IN 2021???
By Michael H Ryan
It certainly seems so! While driving home from participating in the Global event of October Big Day on Saturday, October 9, 2021, at around 2:00 pm, I had just passed Westbourne Ghut, and I looked to my left, and there on the beach was a very large, immature gull. Wow! What is that? So I stopped, parked illegally on the sidewalk, grabbed my camera and attempted to take a few photos. As fate would have it, it was at that time my memory card informed me that it was full!! AAAHHH! Fortunately, I had a spare card and got a few shots before it could fly away.
It was attracted to the shoreline where fishermen were cleaning their fish and discarding the remnants into the sea for a variety of sea birds to fight for the scraps.
Pictures were sent to both Whatbird and RSPB bird forums, with 9 out of the 10 respondents identifying it as a Great Black-backed Gull, (GBBG) with the other person leaning towards GBBG but reluctant to confirm due to St. Kitts being somewhat out of its normal range. Official confirmation from E-bird is anticipated.
The Great Black-backed Gull is the largest Gull in the world when fully mature. It has several distinct stages generally taking 4 years to reach adult status. This bird was a 2nd winter stage. GBBGs have massive bills, bulky bodies, with broad wings and thick necks.
While very rare to these parts, there have been previous reports from St. Croix, Barbuda, Guadeloupe, and Barbados, according to records from e-bird. There was also a confirmed sighting in Nevis in 2007. All in all, what a great way to end participation in a worldwide event, by observing a new bird for St. Kitts!