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Thread: Sexing Gulls

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2007

    Default Sexing Gulls

    Could someone please shed light on how some observers manage to confidently sex gulls?! It's that time of year again when we see comments next to photos of gulls, conclusively sexing them (see UK Scarce gallery currently for an example of what is apparently a 'small female' Glaucous Gull). Do observers manage to obtain splendid views of the more personal regions of a gull's anatomy?!

    I've never understood comments such as "small female" or "large male"... we never get "medium-sized" or "large females", nor small to medium-sized males... so what makes these individuals at the end of the size spectrum so easy to age? Yes, I realise in all likeliness these birds are of the suggested sex, but to say 100% either way can be misleading to less-experienced observers. Surely its best to say "small individual so presumably a female"...

    Rant over... comments welcome.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Clyde Scotland


    Hi Josh et al,

    I'm not so sure that it is 'misleading to the less-experienced' but rather the less-experienced being misleading. Although I dread using the e-word as it is the most misused word in British birding vocabulary. It is a bit like certain species signing being assigned as males, which happens most springs.

    I guess everything in this world is a sum of probabilities rather than anything definite. Some AHGs have white on the tail, some YLGs don't have a perfect p5, small females are probably similiar to very small males. I'm not sure what the odds on a small bird being a female actually are. I would label such birds as 'a small individual, quite possibly a female'. Size can be fairly difficult to assess a lot of the time too. Sometimes when doing a roost Iceland Gulls can be a pain to age let alone sex.

    Interestingly I do see the occasional real small Glaucous Gull in roosts in Scotland, closing in on the size of an Iceland. Interesting birds.

    Once it gets round to mating season it might become a bit easier!


  3. #3
    Senior Member darrenjhughes's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2008


    Don't worry to much about it after birding for 30+ years as long as you can assign it a species thats fine.Wait for the breeding season (you watch any field of cattle from a distance at any time of year and that would really confuse most people when seen through a scope)

  4. #4
    Senior Member Howard King's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2009


    I totally ignore sexist comments on Gulls I find it hard enough just to sort out any of ours to species level reminds me of our local Chippy in Wales if you order a Donner Kebab "they only come in small or medium" they will tell you "we don't do large" - without the one how can you compare the others.
    Last edited by Howard King; December 12th, 2009 at 04:43 AM.
    Bahrain Birding - more than just a blog

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Algarve, Portugal


    Quote Originally Posted by Josh Jones View Post
    Could someone please shed light on how some observers manage to confidently sex gulls?!

    Rant over... comments welcome.
    Pink frocks, ear-rings, high-heels, hand-bags - OOPs, sorry, that is "Gull Pride"!!


    P.S. You can't beat a good, clear view of the cloaca!

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