A Special Visitor Alights On Coney Island

Aug 6, 2011
Originally published on August 7, 2011 9:23 am
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SCOTT SIMON, Host:

This week, a foreign visitor came to Coney Island, perching along the boardwalk on a sweltering August afternoon.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRD SQUAWKING)

SIMON: To most of us, the grey-hooded gull would look much like all of the other seagulls that flock to Coney Island to swoop down on popcorn and peck at balloons. But bird enthusiasts could tell, this was a grey-hooded gull that must have flown in all the way from South America or Africa, and looked as exotic as The Incredible Tattooed Man along the Boardwalk. Marshall Iliff of the website eBird.org changed his vacation plans to come to Coney Island and see the lone grey-hooded gull.

MARSHALL ILIFF: The most unusual thing is its wing pattern when it's flying. It's a real intricate pattern of white and black with white spots near the wingtip.

SIMON: Now, why would a sea gull fly thousands of miles to Coney Island from another continent? Had it heard about Coney Island hot dogs, or the Cyclone roller coaster? Marshall Iliff says the gull, like other beachgoers, might just be hanging out with friends.

ILIFF: For example, the gulls that it's hanging out with are laughing gulls, and a lot of laughing gulls nest around Coney Island and then fly all the way to South America for the winter. So, they're closely related, they seem to be hanging out together, and certainly there could be sort of a flock of laughing gulls that migrated and this bird could have tagged along with them.

SIMON: But the grey-hooded gull hasn't been seen along the boardwalk since Wednesday. Maybe it had some boardwalk fries and flew home - a little heavier. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.