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Thread: Most common gulls -- for identification heuristics

  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Northern Poland

    Default Most common gulls -- for identification heuristics

    I would like to learn to identify gulls by starting with the most frequently occurring gulls.

    For instance, suppose about 50 percent of the gulls in my area (Gdansk, Poland, as it happens) were species X. Then that's the species I would want to learn first. Learn that species and I would be able to identify half of the gulls I was likely to see.

    If another 25 percent in the area were species Y, then that's the one I want to learn next, and I would want to focus on differentiating X from Y, and not worry about the rest of the birds yet.

    From that point, I would fairly reliably be able to identify about 75 percent of the gulls in the area. (The odds of my knowing the identity of the next gull I saw would be about three in four.) The reliability of my identifications would improve with each species I learned, but each additional bird would give me diminishing returns in terms of being able to identify the next gull I saw. If just 1 or 2 percent of the birds I was likely to see were species Z, I might not even bother to learn about species Z, not at first.

    Something like that. I don't know if I'm making myself clear. I hope so.

    Is it possible to find data that would help me with this? Population estimates that would let me decide the approximate odds of the next gull being species X or Y or Z? Not just "The most common gulls in area A are X, Y, and Z" but "In area A, about 20 percent of the gulls are X, 10 percent are Y, ..."

  2. #2
    Senior Member Odonate's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008



    I guess the data exists but not sure where. The common species are probably Herring Gull (Larus argentatus), Yellow legged, (L. michahellis), Caspian Gull (L. cachinnans), Black-headed Gull (Larus ridibundus) and maybe others (not sure exactly what you have in Poland). However, I would say that a large amount of identifying gulls is about separating them from other species (especially with juveniles) so really it is best to learn species pairs (or threes in some cases) together. For instance, it would probably be good to learn Herring Gull, Yellow-legged (and Caspian) and Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus) together as they can seem similar at certain ages when you are learning. The same is true for say Black-headed and Mediterranean (Larus melanocephalus).

    I am sure that people like JanJ and Brian who are very good on Gull ID will tell you that they are still learning and that ID is often as much about why a certain bird is not any other species as it is the species you think.

    Last edited by Odonate; July 15th, 2011 at 07:49 PM.

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