Spring brings thousands of birds through southeastern Michigan, as raptors, songbirds, and waterbirds migrate north to Canada and beyond for their summer breeding season.
And this weekend, spring migration brought through the Bonaparte’s Gull, a small bird that winters along the coastline of Texas, Mississippi, and Mexico, but spends its summer breeding season in the taiga and boreal forest of central and western Canada.
I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time when I saw 10 Bonaparte’s Gulls at North Bay Park on Ford Lake in Ypsilanti, Michigan on Saturday for about 10 minutes. A group of Double-crested Cormorants flew overhead and the gulls took off west of the lake.
The gulls have been spotted on other lakes in our area, but I was excited to see them. It was my first sighting of the gulls for the 2016 spring migration.
About the Bonaparte’s Gull
The Bonaparte’s Gull is distinctive for its black head, similar to the Franklin Gull and Laughing Gull, which are also seen in Michigan.
However, the Bonaparte’ Gull has a black bill, while the Franklin and Laughing Gulls have red bills.
According to All About Birds, the Bonaparte’s Gull is the only gull that nests in trees.
It was named for Charles Bonaparte, a French biologist and ornithologist from the early 19th century, who studied ornithology in the United States while living in Philadelphia in the 1820’s.
Along with the Bonaparte’s Gull, I saw a slew of other birds, including Mute Swans, Mallards, American Coots, Ring-billed Gulls, Downy Woodpecker, American Crow, Barn Swallows, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, American Robins, European Starlings, Northern Cardinals, Common Grackles, and as I was leaving, a Great Blue Heron flying into the woods.