The Beginner Birder’s Gull Guide

Gulls can be confusing! Here are a few tricks to help tell some of the more common gulls apart.

This gull guide is for adult birds only. Gulls get even more tricky than depicted here, due to the fact that juvenile gulls are completely different colors, usually brown with a black bill. Juvenile identification will take more practice, but start with learning the differences between adult gulls, then focus on the young ones. These are the four main gulls I’ve seen in Southern California:

Western GullWestern Gull 350

  • Western Gull has pink legs
  • Dark-gray back
  • Red dot on the end of the beak
  • Again, the Western has PINK LEGS. (this is the easiest identifier)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

beginner birder - California Gull

California Gull

  • Yellow legs (think ‘yellow like sunny California!’)
  • Lighter colored gray back compared to Western Gull
  • Same red dot on end of beak
  • Again, YELLOW LEGS

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heerman's 350Heermann’s Gull

  • Distinct red bill with a black tip
  • This gull has a white head with a grey body, that has a nice gradient in between
  • Black feet

 

 

 

 

 

Ring-billed Gull isolated 350Ring-billed Gull

  • This gull has an obvious black ring around end of bill, notice there is a gap between the ring an tip of the bill. California Gulls can have a similar ring on their bill before they’ve reached full maturity, but the ‘ring’ is much closer to the end of the bill.
  • Yellow legs

 

 

 

 

 

Getting better at identifying gulls will only become easier with practice. Just get out there with your field guide and observe! Going birding with other, more experienced birders is always recommended as they will be able to help you identify these gulls.

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Jeffrey Mann

Author: Jeffrey Mann

A late-20s birder living in Los Angeles. Enjoys birding on the weekend, and loves checking out new areas in SoCal for opportunities to photograph wildlife. When not obsessing about birds, you can find him cross stitching or playing Nintendo games.

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