With a title like that, I'm surprised you're even reading this.  Gulls?  Sounds boring. 

A gull scratching its own neck with ITS OWN TONGUE is decidedly not boring.  But the rest of this post probably will be so just quit while you're ahead and go elsewhere.

I walked down to Broughton Beach yesterday to nab some gulls for my motorless list.  Of course, the problem is that I have a lot of trouble with gull ID.  Who doesn't?  I could pick out some obvious birds like these Mew Gulls...

After that things get more difficult.  California Gulls are the second easiest for me, as long as they're adults...

Now with the yellow-legged gulls (not the Yellow-legged Gulls) out of the way, time for the pink-legged monstrosities.  In the next photo I am ignoring the gull on the left, and focusing on the gull to its right.

When I was at the beach I had thought this was a Glaucous-winged Gull.  But now looking at the photo and comparing it to Howell & Dunn, I am afraid there is not enough smudging to be pure?  

For comparison, there was another gull that seemed Western but with a small amount of smudging.  The bill is also rather small, though the back looks nice and dark, darker than the rest of the gulls present. 

Are these both Western X Glaucous-winged, the hybrid of choice in the Pacific Northwest?  Thoughts always appreciated, especially when it comes to gull ID.

Moving on... I tried to find some Herring and Thayer's Gulls in the mix also.  In the next photo, the center bird (facing right) seemed like a good candidate for Thayer's at first.  The bill looked smaller and shaped right, the head shape looked okay though maybe too slanted, but the legs didn't look bubblegummy enough.

And of course the tail was completely blocked by the gull to the left.  Two gulls to the right of the center fellow also looked like a possible candidate but I could not convince the other gulls to move.

One last gull before my brain explodes... This pale-eyed gull looked possible for Herring...

 Center gull, back row

Tail feathers and eye/bill can be seen despite the California Gull's attempts at obstruction

Oops I lied.  One more gull question and photo.  I noticed this gull with a blueish base to its bill- does this relate to ID or age or what?

It had been a long time since I really stared at some gulls.  I want to like them so bad.  Kind of like when I decided I should really like peanut butter.  I hated it, but it looked so yummy and creamy.  I made myself eat a slice of toast every day with peanut butter and eventually I loved it.  So basically someday I might love gulls if I eat a slice of toast every morning with some gull on it.  Good times.


  1. Gull posts are my favorite! Looks like you are right about the Herring Gull because its back is paler gray than the California's and it has a blotchy nape. The gull with the bluish base to its bill look's like a Thayer's to me because if its dark eye and relatively small bill. Good stuff.

  2. I feel ya, weakest area as well. No help here, but I will continue to read comments to see what people come up with

  3. Alright, here goes nothing. Disclaimer: I don't know diddly compared to the experts.

    GULL IN PIC 4: I've seen many Glaucous-winged Gulls with almost pure white heads, especially closer to breeding season. I wouldn't hesitate to call this gull Glaucous-winged due to its primaries being the EXACT shade of gray as its mantle. Looks like a perfect GWGU.

    GULL IN PIC 5: Wow, a very interesting gull. Very Westerny but with a smaller bill. ???????

    CENTER GULL IN PIC 6: I'd like to see its primaries before drawing any conslusions, but its head looks more smudgy and less streaky than I've seen in many Thayer's. I'm thinking "Olympic". Doesn't strike me as Thayer's.

    CENTER GULL IN PIC 7: A fine candidate for Herring with its pale eye (devil eye) and fierce-looking head shape, but again, I'd like to see its primaries before committing.

    GULL IN PIC 9: There's your Thayer's. Gray mantle, black primaries (super duper dark gray actually), and small thin bill with grayish base. THAYER'S GULL!

    Nice work, and a fun activity for your followers!

    1. Oh wow, thanks for such a detailed response! I'm relieved I wasn't totally off on ALL of them. So any idea what that grayish base on the bill means?

    2. In a random order:

      On Picture 9 if you zoom in you can see the underside of P10 (the tenth primary), the extensive white mirror is good for Thayer's. Always check the underside of the promaries. Also Thayer's often look like they have a black eye, as having been punched, not the iris :) And Thayer's can have green blue bill with brighter tip.

      On the Herring, you can see the primaries in the next shot, the slightly decreasing size in white spots is Herring, not convinced that bill does not have some Glaucous-wing in it, appears slightly thicker towards end? Maybe not. Head shape certainly looks Herring to me.

      On the Western, could be female, certainly looks mostly Western to me.

      On the GWGU in pic 4, notice head shape and how it is sloped rather than like the Herring which is flatter on top. But I agree with the owl dude that wing-tips match mantle so must be mostly GWGU.

      I agree 6 is not Thayer's , way too big a bill and no black-eye look. The bill looks bright and huge, so Western bill as far as I can tell. Need to see color of primaries as well . And it is standing behind a three year old gull, need to think about that one as to species, but the brown mixed in with the gray makes me say 3 years old.

    3. As far as I know, Thayer's pretty much always shows a grayish base to its small, thin bill.

    4. I was down at the beach yesterday in high winds and pouring rain (I'm up on Vancouver Island). I couldn't identify a single bird except for the glaucous-winged gulls, and they're old hat. The rain was in my eyes and the side of my face went numb. It was a good day. But a bad one for birding; I couldn't even take out my binoculars or field-guide. Needless to say, I'm glad I read your post before trying another attempt at gull identification. It's a brand new thing for me; my first time doing a little big year. So far I have 38 species. Photo 4 is definitely a glaucous-winged, I would say, but it's the only gull I am very familiar with (I think I know my glaucous and my mew gulls too). Anyways, thanks for the great post.

  4. I started to read this and look at the photos and then I fell asleep.

  5. ok, not to ignore 99% of your post, but that 1st gull shot has me TOTALLY confused. It looks like its bill is CLOSED & the tongue is coming out of its neck. PLEASE explain. Completely confused & fairly freaked out. xo

    1. Oh I wish I could make you less freaked out, but indeed the tongue is protruding form below the bill. I've seen it a few times, not sure why it happens... It's kind of fascinating. This was the first time I saw it being put to good use.

  6. That is a very weird tongue shot...cant make heads or tails of it...I can only figure out gulls when they are all together for comparison...its dang hard!!! I think you did a great job of finding these guys for us to puzzle over!!


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