[mou] Intriguing Bird & Cluelessness

Pastor Al Schirmacher pastoral at princetonfreechurch.net
Wed Oct 24 12:33:49 EDT 2007

This morning I had an intriguing bird fly over which I am still puzzling 

* Location:  Milaca Hiking Trails (central Minnesota), generally wooded but 
this particular location is between a pond and a meadow, relatively open

* Weather & time:  8:25 AM, well lit but sun still moving over the tops of 
the trees

* Observation time:  approximately 30 seconds, bird initially viewed half 
way across the sky, flew to treed horizon in the direction of sewage ponds, 
bird was 25-30 feet in the air, initially ~40 yards away

* Description:  Very dark, initially appeared black until sun hit it, then 
more chocolate brown on the back half as it flew away.  Gull-like appearance 
and flight (impression), larger overall than a Ring-billed, seemed less 
stocky and bit smaller than a Herring in flight.  Head, bill, body, tail all 
appeared very dark - no white or lighter brown visible.  Tail fanned, not 
elongated or sharp in appearance.  Color similar to a jaeger, but larger & 
more stocky that any jaeger I've observed.  Color also similar to Heerman's, 
but common sense/location screams "no" - not to mention that it appeared 
larger than Sibley's size/description.  Consistently darker overall than any 
hawk I've viewed overhead, but only experience is with Midwestern species. 
Only flapped once or twice during observation time, generally glided lower 
as it moved away (similar to raven glide - however, impression was that it 
was going to land in the ponds beyond the trees, not accessible legally).

So, must admit cluelessness.  Perhaps I was deceived by sun angle (generally 
behind me), perhaps by initial gull shape impression despite color, perhaps 
there are darker overall morphs of gulls/hawks than I'm aware of.

Open to everything from expertise to speculation.  Hard to describe a bird 
that was simply chocolate brown to black all over.


Al Schirmacher
Princeton, MN
Mille Lacs & Sherburne Counties 

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