Date: 10/30/17 11:17 am
From: Wayne Hoffman <whoffman...>
Subject: [obol] Re: Gull identification chart
You make some good points, but I think you still need to be sensitive to the plumages you are likely to see.  Most of the adult Glaucous-winged Gulls seen in Oregon for the 8 months when they are most common do not have white heads. They have heads with extensive grey streaking, barring, or clouding. Ditto for almost all the adult Mew Gulls and Herring Gulls, and many California Gulls.... This is a good character to add to the chart.  

Also, as has been pointed out, wingtips need to be included.

On 10/30/2017 11:05:39 AM, Quinton Nice <quintonnice77...> wrote:
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...> [mailto:<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...> [mailto:<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>
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