Readers’ wildlife photos

September 5, 2021 • 8:00 am

It’s Sunday, so we have themed bird photos from John Avise. Apparently he’s become a punster. The captions are his, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

I Wish They All Could Be California Gulls

Gulls can be one of the most difficult of avian groups to identify to species, for several reasons.  First, there are many closely similar species.  For example, here in Southern California we have the California Gull (Larus californicus), the Herring Gull (Larus argentatus), Thayer’s Gull (Larus thayeri), Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis), Glacous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens), and the Western Gull (Larus occidentalis), among others.  Some of these species are pictured below.

Second, birds in each of these species show major plumage-color differences from season-to-season and from year-to-year during the first 3-4 years of life (see examples in the photos).  And if that doesn’t complicate matters enough, several of these species routinely intermingle and occasionally even hybridize.  In any event, I sometimes get so exasperated trying to identify each bird in a large mixed flock that I quietly think to myself:  “I wish they all could be California Gulls” [just kidding, of course!].

California Gull, first winter:

California Gull, second winter:

California Gull, third winter:

Californnia Gull, adult:

Glaucous-winged Gull, first year:

Glaucous-winged Gull, third year:

Herring Gull, first year:

Herring Gull, second year:

Herring Gull, adult:

Ring-billed Gull, juvenile:

Ring-billed Gull, first winter:

Ring-billed Gull, adult:

Thayer’s Gull, first year:

Western Gull, first year:

Western Gull, second year:

Western Gull, adult:

8 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. True story; novice birder with binoculars looking out to sea at distant white blobs. Expert with telescope remarks “Are you trying to work out if they are gulls or buoys?” “Never mind their sex, are they birds or not?”

  2. Thanks for this! Excellent photos. Warblers and sparrows are easy, compared to trying to sort out gulls, or shorebirds.

  3. Wow, I understand your exasperation trying to identify these gulls, but thanks for doing so. The adults don’t seem as hard, but those juveniles are tricky.

  4. Thayer’s Gull (formerly Larus thayeri) was recently merged into Iceland Gull (Larus glaucoides), and is no longer considered a separate species. While birders usually hate these “lumpings” of species, as it means one fewer for their list if they’d seen the “lumpee”, I know of no one who lamented the passing of Thayer’s Gull. It was notoriously difficult to identify with any confidence, at least in my neck of the woods.

    Thanks a lot for the photos!

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