When you ask someone who is into gulls for help identifying a specific bird the conversation can get horribly dull amazingly quickly. Molt, windows, remiges and other opaque terms will be bandied about until your head explodes. Fortunately, we here at 10,000 Birds have much easier ways to help you identify gulls. For example, some new birders have a difficult time telling Lesser Black-backed Gulls and Great Black-backed Gulls apart. Experts will talk to you about size, shape, mantle color, soft-part color, the amount of streaking, and a host of other things that make what should be a straightforward topic much more complex than it really needs to be. Just check out the picture below and you will be well on your way to distinguishing between these two species in no time!

Greater Black-backed Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull

It’s not even a tack-sharp picture but the identification is amazingly easy, no? Do you see the one thing that the experts fail to mention?

Yes, that’s right, Great Black-backed Gulls, knowing that they are the baddest, toughest, meanest gulls around, have no problem displaying their dominance by flying higher. Above the horizon even! Lesser Black-backed Gulls, on the other hand, are smaller, weaker, and generally subservient. They fly lower, almost always below the horizon. See? Easy!

Nomenclature is destiny.

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy, their son, Desmond Shearwater, and their indoor cat, B.B. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.