Great black-backed gull appears in Penticton, fourth in BC history

Rare bird shows up in B.C.

For only the fourth time in recorded history, the great black-backed gull has been spotted in British Columbia.

BC Bird Alert says that on Dec. 6, Chris Charlesworth and Ryan Tomlinson found a first year great black-backed gull on the beach of Okanagan Lake in Penticton.

The bird was sitting on the beach with one second-year lesser black-backed gull directly across from the Spanish Villa Resort.

Alex Bodden, the president of the South Okanagan Naturalists' Club, tells Castanet it's one of Eastern Canada's most popular gulls, with the Government of Canada estimating there to be roughly 50,000 - 100,000 great black-backed gulls living in the country.

“The Great Black-Backed Gull is fairly common in Eastern Canada and is the biggest gull we have in Canada. They stand out mostly because of their size as they tower over most of the other gulls. It was first reported on Dec. 6. They’re high level birds and it just appeared in a crowd of gulls down on the beach," said Bodden.

Having to get an eye on the bird himself, Bodden called it a unique experience and said bird lovers from all over the province will be flocking to the Okanagan to get a glimpse themselves.

As to why its here, Bodden doesn't exactly know.

"Birds find themselves in strange parts of the world, with storms being a big reason or they just get lost. More likely with this case is the fact that the Northern Arctic is more open during the summer now, so the birds can move east and west more freely, but it's hard to say why it's here," Bodden said.

‘It doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to leave. I suspect it's going to stay here for a while because its hanging out with its cousins and it's got nowhere to go right now. This is sort of a winter destination for [other] gulls, so unless things change a lot I would be surprised if he takes off any time soon.”

Canada is also home to the herring gull, ring-billed gull, glaucous gull and the iceland gull.

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