identifying gulls

8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
young and mature laughing gulls ~ 8.18.13 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Gulls – a word of inherent paradox. Almost anyone can recognize a gull – or “seagull” – as such, but to identify certain gulls to species can vex the most experienced observers.
~ Steve N. G. Howell & Jon Dunn
(Gulls of the Americas)

8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
8.18.13 ~ Eastern Point Beach
8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
“regular” herring gulls with their new and smaller laughing gull neighbors ~ 8.18.13 ~ Eastern Point Beach
8.18.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
I love these petite laughing gulls and their little black legs! ~ 8.18.13 ~ Eastern Point Beach

Until April of 2012, when we were visiting our son and his family in Georgia, I was unaware of the fact that there were about 50 different species of gulls, about 22 of them found in North America. At Cumberland Island National Seashore I was very surprised to see two black-headed gulls perched on a dock.

Then in the summer of 2012 we noticed a couple of HUGE juvenile gulls at our local Eastern Point Beach here in Connecticut. After some sleuthing we determined that they must be the largest of all the gulls, great black-backed gulls. Awe-inspiring! I took pictures of them next to what we started calling “regular” gulls to show the difference in size.

This summer we were hoping to spot some adult great black-backed gulls, which we finally did. But before that, I noticed we had more new visitors, these little gulls with black legs. Time to purchase a reference guide! I’m not 100% positive, but I think they are laughing gulls.

Now what species are my beloved “regular” gulls? Again, not absolutely sure, but I think they are ring-billed gulls. The problem I seem to be facing is that gulls molt several times as they mature and look a little different during each of their four cycles, sometimes dramatically different.

8.21.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
an adult great black-backed gull with a “regular” ring-billed gull ~ 8.21.13 ~ Eastern Point Beach
8.21.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
great black-backed gull contemplates taking off ~ 8.21.13 ~ Eastern Point Beach
8.21.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
8.21.13 ~ Eastern Point Beach
8.21.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
8.21.13 ~ Eastern Point Beach

It was considered unlucky to kill a seagull, as they are the souls of dead sailors. So if a seagull were to land on the bow of the ship, you didn’t want your captain to see you chase it off as a comrade has come to visit.
~ K. E. Heaton
(Superstitions of the Sea)

So many of my ancestors were lost at sea – I have to wonder sometimes…

8.21.13 ~ Groton, Connecticut
perhaps the great black-backed gull is headed for the approaching ship ~ 8.21.13 ~ Eastern Point Beach

5 thoughts on “identifying gulls”

  1. I need to go down to the beach now Barbara, you’ve got me wondering….I thought all of our gulls here were the same, but perhaps not! Great photos and good luck with the identification process.

  2. Hi. Our local TV station (CBC – Canadian Broadcasting) has a live ‘cam’ in a couple of our cities which they always show in the corner of the screen. There are often sea gulls perched in front of the camera and they are referred to as CBSeagulls ! Jane

  3. You are a better woman than I am. I haven’t even attempted to identify the gulls, there are so many, and they have so many similarities! Beautiful shots, Barbara. 🙂

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