Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Those white birds seen on the coast are often just lumped together as "sea gulls" by many people. Actually there isn't a bird called a "sea gull" and many of them live inland, far from the ocean. They can be difficult to tell apart, so I'll share some photos of some of the gulls I saw.

This one is generally the most common gull, the Herring Gull. To recognize gull species takes a lot of patience, and there are some things I always look for. I check the color of the feet ... pink or yellow? I look at the bill size, shape, and color or markings. And, if I can get close enough, I look at the color of the flesh around the eye. In this case we see pink feet, a big yellow bill with a red spot, and yellow around the eye. (Click on the picture to see a larger version.) Herring Gull.

This one is a bit less common, and it is larger with a dark back ... almost black instead of grey like the one above. The feet and bill are about the same color as the Herring Gull, but have a look at the orbital ring (flesh around the eye) on this one ... red, not yellow. It's a Great Black-backed Gull.

Now this one is different, with legs more pale yellow than pink, and though the bill is yellow it does not have the red spot but instead sports a black band. And the orbital ring is black. It is a Ring-billed Gull, one we often see in Idaho as well. They hang around dumps a lot to get free food, but with the closure of open dumps life is getting harder for this scavenger and they're hanging around picnic tables hoping I'll drop my sandwich.

Uh, oh. Sorry about this one. I'll just have to tell you about it. This gull is small, about half the size of the Herring Gull and has a short black bill and pinkish-red feet. I think you can see the red feet of the one in the middle of the rock, closest to us ... or maybe I just remember what I saw and fill in the picture using my imagination. These are Bonaparte's Gulls.


Bill S. said...

Great pictures of the gulls. You are right about "sea" gulls - no such thing except in the names of bays, streets and roads.

Anonymous said...

Love the gull pictures. You know how I miss them, being so far inland. The only time I get to see gulls is when they get blown in by a storm and usually they're standing around in large parking lots.