I've been going back through some pictures I took last month, trying to identify the birds in the pictures. I've found one gull that I'm having problems with. I've got a couple of shots I'm going to share with you, and then I'll give my current thoughts and reasoning.
The picture was taken on 23 Feb 09, on the grounds of Naval Air Station Pensacola. The gull on the right is the one I'm having difficulty with. The next picture is a closer view of that gull.
I'm reasonably certain that the gull on the left is a Ring-Billed Gull, and the gull on the left definitely seemed to be just a little smaller. The size, location, and most of the appearance of the gull on the left are consistent with a Laughing Gull. However, the dark half-hood is pretty extensive, and would seem to be a lot more consistent with a Franklin's Gull than a Laughing Gull. If I had just the picture of the gull, and no other information, I'd definitely be thinking Franklin's Gull.
The thing is, Franklin's Gulls are rare on the Gulf Coast of Florida, while Laughing Gulls are very common. What do you think? Is this a case of a novice birder hearing hoofbeats and thinking "zebra", or did I get lucky and actually spot a bird that's not common to the area?