A New Book On Gulls

Well love 'em or hate 'em Gulls are complicated. They are also fascinating, especially when you get into the different plumages, ages and hybrids. They take lots of work and are super frustrating to ID but when you get the identification right you sure feel rewarded. I am constantly learning when it comes to Gulls and since it is not my forte, I am constantly trying to improve my Gull ID skills. Gull experts study Gulls to the point of exhaustion... to the point that they don't really look at any other birds because Gulls are that complicated. It takes dedication and amazing ability. I know when I first got into birding I hated gulls. I thought they were boring and uninteresting, but that is far from the truth; especially when you get into the stunning Hooded Gulls.

There is a young birder in Victoria named Liam Singh who I think one day could grow up to be one of these Gull Experts. His skill at identifying them is better than most adult birders.

Anyways, if you want to get better at Gulls and you already have Howell's Book "Gulls of the Americas" and Olsen's other book "Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America", you will love this one:

"Gulls of the World: A Photographic Guide" by Klaus Malling Olsen. It is available for 50$ HERE at Chapters via pre-order and it releases in Canada on April 10th.

So far the reviews, even by other gull experts, have been excellent.

Here is the basic idea of what is in the book:

"With more than 50 gull species in the world, this family of seabirds poses some of the greatest field identification challenges of any bird group: age-related plumage changes, extensive variations within species, frequent hybridization, and complex distribution.
Gulls of the World takes on these challenges and is the first book to provide a comprehensive look at these birds. Concise text emphasizes field identification, with in-depth discussion of variations as well as coverage of habitat, status, and distribution. Abundant photographs highlight identification criteria and, crucially, factor in age and sub specific field separation. Informative species accounts are accompanied by detailed color range maps.
Gulls of the World is the most authoritative photographic guide to this remarkable bird family.
  • The first book to provide in-depth coverage of all the world's gull species
  • More than 600 stunning color photographs
  • Concise text looks at variations, habitat, status, and distribution
  • Informative species accounts and color range maps"
You can look inside the book to see the images and text at this LINK

As you can see from the above link, all ages and plumages are shown with a description and detailed info on this species. He also discusses the complicated issue of molt for each species with photos showing what the bird looks like in each moult with detailed info. He also gives you some really good tips/tricks to ID the various Gulls and what atypical features to look for etc. I like learning about the species background, breeding, behavior etc, rather than just having just a drawing or photo of the bird to identify. Not only is this more interesting but it helps you to learn more about each bird which will only help you to get better in your birding hobby.

Definitely one to add to your collection.

Since we are talking about Gulls, I'll add a few different species that I have photographed:

Adult Heermann's Gull in San Diego, CA - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Ring-billed Gull in flight in Coronado, CA - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Portrait of a Ring-billed Gull in Richmond, BC - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Laughing Gull in Rockport, TX - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Swallow-tailed Gull in Seattle, WA - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Laughing Gull Portrait in Brownsville, TX - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Adult Black-headed Gull in Vancouver, BC - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Black-legged Kittiwake in Nome, AK - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Mew Gull in breeding plumage in Nome, AK - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Bonaparte's Gull in White Rock, BC - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Little Gull in Kelowna, BC - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Franklin's Gull in breeding plumage in Burns, OR - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Adult Glaucous Gull in Delta, BC - Photo: Melissa Hafting

Adult Sabine's Gull in breeding plumage at Clayquot Canyon, BC - Photo: Melissa Hafting


  1. The book is probably way over my head but I enjoyed your beautiful photos. I notice at ebird that almost every time gulls appear on a list there are hybrids, sometimes more hybrids than species. If there are so many hybrids how can there truly be any pure species since they have been breeding and presumable hybridizing for more than a few generations?

    1. well there will always be pure birds but you make a good point i know a few people who do not believe that there are any pure western gulls in wa or bc because of hybridization so they feel they must have even a small amt of hybrid genes and they vary well may be right. however without dna samples you really can't tell for sure in those type of hybrids that look like a purebred unless of course you see physical signs of hybridization in the plumage. hahah but yes jim there is still those pure gulls around but they may be getting harder to find in some locales. but one reason why we will continue to have pure birds is many of their ranges just don't overlap making hybridization highly unlikely. thanks for the nice comment on the pics.

      gulls are way over most birders heads even the best can't put an id to some birds.

  2. Most gulls look the same to me but your photos are gorgeous!

    1. lol you should buy this book.... some have black heads and red bills ;)


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