Date: 10/30/17 8:42 am From: David Irons <llsdirons...> Subject: [obol] Re: Gull identification chart
While attempts to de-mystify gull ID are admirable, such attempts don’t get to the heart of the issue in my opinion.
This is anover-simplified way to look at gulls. It is in essence a duplication of similar tables others have done. The terminology used to describe gray tones is unhelpful, as pale gray, neutral gray, dark gray etc. have no universal meaning that translates from one birder to the next and lighting conditions greatly impact how we perceive gray tones. The mantles of Great Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed and Slaty-backed are closer to black and not what I would necessarily describe as “dark gray.”
The real issue with this table is that it includes no information about wing tip pattern, no mention of prevalent hybrids, does not account for molt or individual variation and it does not offer information about immatures or other sub-adult plumages. These are the factors that make gull ID a challenge. Most folks don’t struggle too much with the pristine adults, as descriptions and good illustrations of those can be readily found in a variety of field guides and online resources.
Gull ID is best learned through continuing contextual study in the field that involves spending time looking at a variety of species in side-by-side comparisons. Over time you come too connect the dots of pattern, relative gray tone, size, shape and structure, bill and leg color and start to appreciate the sometimes subtle differences between one species and another.
Not every birder is motivated to take the time to learn gulls. That’s okay, but it is important to understand that there are no short cuts. The baseline information already exists and has for some time. This table doesn’t really contribute any new information and as noted earlier, I’ve seen similar tables like this elsewhere.