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!
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.
that’s great Corey, but is it a true generalization, or just obvious in your photo?
There I was, thinking that Greater Black-backed Gulls can be distinguished from Lesser Black-backed Gullss by more closely resembling the drawing of Greater Black-backed Gull than the one of Lesser Black-backed in my field guide, and now comes Corey and gets me all confused.
But….how then would you distinguish this Greater Black-backed Gull from a Great Black-backed Gull? 😉
That’s a good question! I know how to tell if I haven’t had enough sleep after a pelagic trip while writing a post…
And I fixed it. Thanks!
Oh, it always holds true. In fact, Great Black-backed Gulls will actually continue to fly higher as your point of view goes up so they are always above the horizon. Try it, it’s amazing!
Yes but I saw a Baltic gull (larus fuscus) i think ? on its own flying above and below the horizon ? Easy ? I think not !
Perspective is the next best thing to learn, it seems, since sticking your head up a bit and….. magic! They both are under the horizon!!
This 5-yo info seems hardly accurate or even serious to contribute or help with any reasonable bird aficionado, amateur or pro.