Several of the resident experts have spoken, so I'll chime in from the
opposite perspective. If you are a beginner at gull identification, you
need to make a chart like this. Spend the time sorting out the various
points so you have an idea what you are looking for. Have an idea what
you're going to use to separate the various species.
Print a copy of the chart and just jam it in somewhere in the gull section
of your Sibley guide. Don't bother to laminate it and carefully affix it
inside the front cover. Then go spend some time in a spot with a bunch of
gulls and use the chart. About the third day you do this, a gust of wind
will pull the chart out of your book, and the rain will soak it beyond
further use. (This is gull watching in Oregon.) You will realize you are
now ready to bird without the chart.
I think Lars' comments quibbling about the ordering of the species based on
mantle color illustrate this well. Lars knows his gulls, so he can identify
them without needing to scrutinize mantle color. Then he can comment on
OBOL based on patterns he sees from already knowing what he is looking at.
For beginners, including me, you're wrestling with it all at once, and you
don't have the knowledge base to bail yourself out. And thus I come around
to agree with what the experts say. The only way to learn gulls is by time
in the field and trying and trying again.
If I were to improve this chart, I would refer to the old birding axiom of
knowing the common species well before worrying about the rare ones.
Including only the 6 or 8 expected species would be a simplified way to
start, and focus on knowing those well. If you don't know the common
species, you probably won't recognize something out of place.
On Oct 30, 2017 8:42 AM, "David Irons" <llsdirons...> wrote:
> 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.
> Dave Irons
> Beaverton, OR
> Sent from my iPhone
> On Oct 30, 2017, at 4:58 AM, Treesa Hertzel <Autumn207...> wrote:
> One of our members, who wishes to remain anonymous, asked me to post this
> chart on gull identification that he created. He is interested in your
> feedback, i.e. do you find it useful? accurate?
> Treesa Hertzel
> OBOL Moderator
> <Breeding Adult Identification Chart.docx>