Gull Identification in the Pacific Northwest

Text by Greg Gillson.
Photographs by Phil Pickering.
Copyright © 2000, all rights reserved.

Herring Gull, second-winter
larger view

These pages are devoted to the identification of large gulls in the Pacific Northwest. The intended audience is beginning and intermediate gull watchers, who otherwise may be quite expert at identifying the Northwest's other birds. The identification of gulls is complex, but I've tried to present these complexities in a simplified, yet accurate, way. Even so, not all gulls can be identified. For those wishing to cross the line into ID challenges, check out some of the links to other sites, below.

GRAPHICS INTENSIVE! These pages may take a while to load the first time. Because it is assumed you will want to see the larger views of all the pictures, the thumbnail pictures on many of these pages are the same files as the larger views. This means that when you click on "larger view" they should load faster right from your disk cache.

Plumage terminology: Quick diagrams of scapulars, coverts, tertials, primaries, apical spots, mirrors, gonys, and more.

Aging gulls: "Learning to tell the age of a gull is the first step to identifying one."

Herring Gull vs. Western Gull: "Herring and Western gulls really aren't very similar. Nevertheless,... many new gull watchers and visitors from out-of-state,... identify our pale Western Gulls as Herring Gulls."

Herring Gull vs. Thayer's Gull: "Herring and Thayer's gulls are superficially quite similar. There are plumage and structural differences, however, that help separate them at all ages."

Hybrids: Western, Glaucous-winged, and hybrids between the two. (in progress)

Links to other North American gull sites