Sunday, 21 August 2011


I am a bit of a pedant when it comes to the term "Gull". The common terminology for these (mostly) white birds is Seagull, but let me tell you, there is no such bird as a Seagull, they are GULLS, Black-headed ones, Herring ones even Little ones, but not Sea ones!

I may be a pedant about getting the name right, but when it comes to identification of these beasts I am a beginner. Don`t get me wrong, I can I.D. an adult Herring Gull and even pull out an adult Mediterranean Gull in summer plumage from a flock of Black-headed Gulls, but when it comes to the juvenile, 1st winter, 2nd winter etc plumages I am a complete novice! With this in mind I contacted our local Gull expert Josh Jones the other day with a view to get a few pointers. Josh had found a juvenile and 2nd winter Caspian Gull at the local tip and had kindly said that he would give me a tutorial in identifying the birds. The rain was falling and the sky was grey, not ideal conditions, but we gave it a go.

The 2nd winter bird is in the photo below, can you spot it? (Click on the photo to make it larger)

The photo below shows the bird at a slightly closer range. The bird right in the middle of the shot, looking to the left, looking very pale, that`s the one! This bird, once I got my eye in stuck out like a sore thumb, it was a huge hulk of a beast, with a large straight bill. Josh told me that he thought it was a male.

The photo below shows the juvenile bird. Again, can you pick it out from the other Gulls present?

It is the one directly to the right of the Black Back. Again, a large bird, with a large straight black bill and pale head and again, once I got my eye in, fairly obvious!

The photo below shows the same bird in an aggressive frame of mind attacking a juvenile Herring Gull. The Caspian Gull is the one with very pale underwings, a useful pointer to the I.D.

Josh is amazingly knowledgeable on these birds, he is able to pull out juvenile Yellow-legged Gulls from a group of 20 juvenile Herring Gulls, all looking the same to the untrained eye. He is also extremely patient with a numpty like me, pointing out various key features to identifying these birds. I cannot recommend highly enough a visit to his blog where he explains in more detail the various key features of these birds, click here to have a look.

Thanks to Josh`s help I have a little more knowledge in these magnificent creatures, but they are definitely not Seagulls!


  1. HI John....Yes there are many GULLS, and they all seem to get lumped together!!
    Josh must have a real trained eye and you will get it!!
    My 10 years old grandson corrects me on the different types of gull when we are at the ocean!! lol

  2. We can all learn along with you John! I had no idea that I been mis-naming these birds all my life. Never again!
    All I know is that ones at Dover docks are very aggressive.
    Click here for Bazza’s Blog ‘To Discover Ice’

  3. Its a discipline all of its own John, "Gull ID".
    I am more of a novice than you. .

  4. Hi Grace,
    Sounds like your Grandson has got the eye! ;)
    My niece and nephew are still of the opinion that they are Seagulls, I have tried to tell them, but they persist, I am sure that they are doing it to wind me up! ;)

  5. Hi Bazza,
    Yes, learning can be fun, can`t it?
    Those gulls are probably Herring Gulls, big noisy brutes who will take chips out of your hand and ice creams from babies!

  6. Hi Roy,
    Gull I.D. is the ultimate in birdwatching I reckon. If you can tell the difference between a juvenile Yellow-legged and a first winter Yellow-legged, you have got it made I reckon! I am still a long way off from being able to do that!


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