Saturday, April 2, 2011

An Acquired Taste

And truthfully, one I've not yet fully acquired.

But when life gives you lemons ...

... you take gull photos!

Like this very cooperative first cycle glaucous gull.

Gull identification is one of the more difficult birding challenges, and one I've not yet mastered. Often coming down to foot color, bill color, and subtle feather size and color differences.

Most gulls take three or four years to reach adulthood, with plumage changes each year. There are twenty-seven species of gulls found in North America, many with similar appearances. And a number of them interbreed, upping the degree of difficulty.

Do the math, 27 * 3 = 81 different looks. Not counting hybrids and birds undergoing plumage changes. And then there are the plumage differences between breeding and non-breeding birds.

And it doesn't help that one of the best places to master the craft of gull identification is the local landfill.

I don't know that I would have correctly id'd this bird in the field. Most likely I'd have compared my notes and photos to my field guides, made a guess, and then asked my birding friends if I got it right. So it was nice to have experts along to identify them for me.


Anonymous said...

Kife can only head UP from snapping gulls, there are MILLIONS of em, buy a bag of chips (French Fries) and watch em flock!

Guy said...

Hi Your gull photos are wonderful.
I am always impressed to see flying birds captured so well, the feather definition is great.