I’ll be Gull’Darned

Although this week was mostly sunny, a number of obligations kept me from getting out and going birding on my normal days. Finally, in desperation I skipped my Thursday Tai Chi and Pilates classes to drive to the coast. It was a beautiful, sunny drive the whole way, at least until I got within three miles of my destination, when fog obscured the sky. If it had been summer I would have expected fog, but since it was relatively cool in Tacoma I was more than a little surprised that the fog was so thick:

As usual, I was early, there long before the tide was to come in bringing the shorebirds with it. But that gave me a chance to be alone in the delightful quiet and watch the seagulls, which seem ever-present.

I had no trouble recognizing this common Ring-billed Gull,

Ring-Billed Gull

though, I had no idea what this big gull was and was pretty sure I’d never seen one before, which turned out to be half true. I couldn’t tell if it was a young Western Gull or a young Glaucous-Winged Gull,

Juvenile Gull

though it looks very little like what I think is an adult Western Gull,

Possible Western Gull

which looks quite a bit like this gull, except for the grey-breast. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any bird with this color breast in any of my birding books, even in Sibley, which provides the best illustrations of variations within different species.

Unidentified Gull with Grey Breast

However, I did find one passage that may well explain my confusion in a section on Gull Hybrids:

GLAUCOUS-WINGED – WESTERN GULL. Common coastally from British Columbia to California. Some populations in Washington are mostly hybrids and backcrosses, with very few pure birds.

That was one of those AHA moments. This is definitely one of those times when the more I know the more I realize how little I know. I’ve never read this anywhere before. I wonder if this means that I’ve been rash in previous identifications based on the assumption that a gull has to be one species or another.

Probably. As I’ve said numerous times, I’m a better photographer than a birder.

2 thoughts on “I’ll be Gull’Darned

  1. I think we really should look more closely at gulls, Loren. Because they are so common we tend to lump them all together as just “gulls”, whereas really there are so many different ones. As usual your photographs are superb and really make me envious of that coastline.

What do you think?