Monday, April 8, 2013

G(ul)lamour Shots

Anytime I visit the beach, I'm guaranteed to have an opportunity to see some gulls. These seabirds may be common, but they usually promise to provide some entertaining antics as well as great photo ops. Here are a few of my favorite species putting their best foot forward.

Laughing Gull
 Laughing Gulls are year-round residents and are the only gulls that breed in Florida. While non breeding Laughing Gulls are quite drab and dull, those in breeding plumage are quite striking. During this time, they develop a bold black cap, a red eye ring, and a reddish bill.

immature Ring-billed Gull
The population of Ring-billed Gulls throughout the winter is enormous. In addition to the beach, they can be found in parks, parking lots, and a variety of other locations. On a recent trip to the beach, I observed a large number of these gulls intermingled with other seabirds. As I was photographing these gulls, I noticed there was quite a variance among the appearances of them (due to age and development of breeding plumages). I tried to capture as many different appearances as I could that day.

nonbreeding Ring-billed Gull

developing breeding Ring-billed Gull

developing breeding Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gulls are also very attractive in their breeding plumage. When their breeding plumage is fully developed, their heads become pure white.

breeding Ring-billed Gull

breeding Ring-billed Gull

Herring Gulls are another common, well known species that visit the area in the winter. This species takes four years to develop its adult plumage; several variations of immature Herrings are often found.

1st summer Herring Gull

Herring Gull
The Lesser and Great Black-backed Gulls that I encounter in this area do not seemed as well adapted to people as the Laughing and Ring-billed Gulls. Both species are winter visitors. The adults can be easily distinguished by their leg colors (the Lesser has yellow legs while the Great has pale, pink legs), eye color (the Lesser has pale eyes while the Great has dark eyes), and size (Great Black-backed Gulls are noticeably larger). The Lesser Blacked-backed Gull is also similar to the Herring Gull but can be easily distinguished by the leg color (the Lesser has yellow legs while the Herring has pale, pink) and the Lesser Blacked-backed Gulls are a darker gray.

Lesser Black-backed Gull
Great Black-backed Gulls are truly enormous. They are easy to spot from a distance as they tower over the other gulls and shorebirds that they share space with. I see the smallest population of these gulls, but they always make quite an impression! Watch out little Sanderlings, Great Black-backed Gulls are known to eat other birds!

Great Black-backed Gull

Great Black-backed Gull

Ring-billed Gull & immature Herring Gull
I think the most common behavior I observe in gulls at the beach is the harassment of others, usually the poor terns. Occasionally the gulls get a taste of their own medicine!

Great Black-backed Gull, Ring-billed Gull, immature Herring Gull
In addition to keeping your eye on your snacks, next time you're at the beach, you might want to keep an eye on your towel!

immature Herring Gull
Tammy Karr


  1. Absolutely fabulous Gull photos!

  2. Great lineup showing all of the different faces! I still haven't caught the lesser and great blacks yet. They're pretty rare around here and I keep missing them.

  3. Sick stuff Tammy. You could open up a little booth and do family photo portraits for all the Gulls, if you don't mind getting paid in fish bits : )

  4. I learned a bit more about gull identification after reading your wonderful post. Next time I visit Florida during the winter season, I will have to keep an eye out for those large Great Black-backed Gulls. Truly fantastic photographs, Tammy!

  5. Fantastic images - I love the faces and eyes of gulls.

  6. Wonderful head shots of the gulls with great information. That last shot is a hoot!