By Chris Lotz
Gulls Simplified: A Comparative Approach to Identification, by Dunn and Karlson, Princeton University Press 2018
It’s actually rare for us to review a book here on the Birding Ecotours blog (apart from recommending the best bird field guides for each country on earth – please kindly see https://www.birdingecotours.com/blog-posts/recommendedbirdfieldguides/). We only review books that we feel are exceptional. So, if you see a book review on the Birding Ecotours blog, it means we love the book! And this one is no exception.
“Gulls Simplified” is a book that actually does what it says, making gull identification in North America a lot easier and simpler than it used to be. The text is wonderfully well written, focusing on exactly what to look for to differentiate confusingly similar gull species and makes gull ID as easy as it can possibly be. We’re not saying that this book suddenly makes gull ID trivial, but we are saying that it makes it much easier than before. Gull identification in the Northern Hemisphere is notoriously difficult because of the big variation in plumage within each species (plumage varies with age, subspecies, and other factors) and the often-subtle plumage differences between species.
The text of this book is written in a really fun, intelligent way, and is not (at all!) boring to read (like some books on advanced bird ID). The comparative text is certainly a lot more sensible than the list of features that many books meant to help separate one species from another offer (without highlighting only the important features for telling them apart from each other).
The many photos, including lots of comparison photos (with more than one similar species in the same photo) together with brilliantly informative photo captions, complement the well-written text to (again) truly simplify gull identification.
In my humble opinion, this is a must-have book for any serious North American birder. I’m delighted that I managed to get my hands on a copy in late November 2018, just in time for the gull season in the back yard of our US office – Ohio (and Lake Erie in particular) is indeed one of the best places to test one’s gull ID skills during the winter season.