Glaucous-winged Gulls

I’m happy to say that the rather ubiquitous Glaucous-winged Gull is a species that I’m at least able to identify in both breeding and non-breeding plumage. After reading Hugh’s post about Spring Gulls coming into breeding plumage I thought that I would keep an eye out for them in the Comox Valley. There is a large breeding colony nearby on Mittlenach Island and Glaucous-winged Gulls are common in the winter here on the coast. Sure enough, a little searching this week quickly turned up a Glaucous-winged in its breeding finery. Note the white head, fairly heavy bill, dark eye, and grey mantle (back) and wingtips. Compare the photograph below with a Western Gull I found at Parksville Bay.

Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens)
Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens) in breeding plumage - note the non-breeding plumage bird in the background.

The fact that some of the large gulls take up to four years to mature means keeping track of up to eight different plumage stages. Then throw in some hybrids just to keep you off balance. Some gulls in winter plumage are fairly distinctive but for the most part, I’m happy to wait until gulls are in breeding plumage before identifying a gull conclusively. I’ll admit that I’m no gull expert and lack what Sibley describes as the “patient and methodical” approach needed to become better. Maybe having a two and a half year old and an eight month old has something to do with that.

Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens)
Non-breeding winter plumaged Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens) in flight.