Recommended books on Gulls, Skuas, Jaegers and Terns

Here is a selection of titles that I use regularly or at least enjoyed reading. New suggestions for the list are always welcome! In case you want to get your hands on any of these recommended books, I have added direct links to appropriate on-line stores such as

Peter.J. Grant (1986) Gulls: A guide to identification. A birding classic, revised by the late Peter Grant in 1986, this remains a must for all gull enthusiasts.

The second edition of Grant's Gulls: a guide to identification.

The Large Gulls of North America A video from the Advanced Birding Video Series® hosted by Jon Dunn and produced by John Vanderpoel. (Peregrine Video Productions (1997) VHS, approx. 2 hours)

The video addresses the following species: Thayer's, Iceland, Lesser Black-backed, Herring, Western, Glaucous, California, Yellow-legged, Great Black-backed, Kelp, Slaty-backed, Yellow-footed, and Glaucous-winged Gulls.

The Small Gulls of North America. A video from the Advanced Birding Video Series® written Jon Dunn, John Vanderpoel and Larry Rosche.

A video from the Advanced Birding Video Series® (Peregrine Video Productions (December 1999) VHS, approx. 3 hours), ; hosted by Jon Dunn and produced by John Vanderpoel.

The Small Gulls of North America contains nearly three hours of footage, gathered from all over the world. Some 18 identifiable forms (listed below) are discussed, using an imaginative blend of moving video and still photographs. Most species are shown in all the major plumages (except fluffy chick stage) together with many transitional individuals. Extensive use of composite images allows for direct side-by-side comparisons, illustrating diagnostic differences in shape and jizz to great effect. Computer-generated pointers are also used very effectively, highlighting the particular feature (tertial crescents, undertail spotting etc) under discussion. The slick editing pays off, making it really easy to follow Jon Dunn's well-written and detailed narrative. Maps are used to illustrate the breeding range and general migrations routes of each species. Occasional time-outs summarize molt timing and so on. The addition of vocalizations is an obvious benefit of video compared to still photos, and it is a delight to hear the distinctive calls of Little Gulls, which I imagine might stand out from the harsher calls of Bonaparte's Gull in a mixed flock.

Appropriately, the hardest identification challenges receive the most detailed treatment and I thought the sometimes difficult separation of Ring-billed Gull from the each of the four members of the canus group was treated extremely well. Likewise, the remarkable (and frequently under appreciated) degree of variation in Ring-billed Gull is illustrated to great effect. In fact, this may be the most comprehensive, and certainly most up-to-date discussion of this problematic group. As a testiment to the care given to the video, oddities such as an albino Franklin's Gull, which might be mistaken for an adult Ivory Gull, or 1st-basic Ring-billed Gulls with a Common Gull-like tail pattern are included as well.

One obvious improvement from the Large Gull Video is the inclusion of locations and dates for the footage. This is extremely useful with respect to molt timing etc and interesting with respect to rare or hard to see species. Unfortunately a lot of material still remains unlabeled.

The movie footage of Ross's Gulls taken in Alaska, Manitoba, Scotland and other unspecified localities is really astounding and should delight (and with luck, convert) even the most jaded gull-hater!

The video addresses the following species/subspecies (start time indicated in hr:min:sec):
Ring-billed Gull 00:04:55
(Short-billed) Mew Gull 00:14:41
(nominate) Common Gull
(Russian) Common Gull
Kamchatka Gull
Heermann's Gull 00:45:21
Black-tailed Gull 00:58:51
Laughing Gull 01:09:31
Franklin's Gull 01:20:14
Bonaparte's Gull 01:36:16
Black-headed Gull 01:45:32
Little Gull 01:56:05
Sabine's Gull 02:06:15
(Pacific) Black-legged Kittiwake 02:16:02
(Atlantic) Black-legged Kittiwake
Red-legged Kittiwake 02:25:58
Ross's Gull 02:36:08
Ivory Gull 02:45:23

Klaus Malling Olsen (1992) Jagers: De jagers van het Noordelijk Halfrond.

Written in Dutch. Precursor to Skuas and Jaegers: A Guide to the Skuas and Jaegers of the World. (see below). Very detailed analysis of jaeger (small skua) and Great Skua identification from the Danish expert Klaus Malling Olsen. Numerous line drawings and black and white illustrations.

Klaus Malling Olsen and Hans Larsson (1997) Skuas and Jaegers: A Guide to the Skuas and Jaegers of the World.

Click here to purchase Skuas and Jaegers: A Guide to the Skuas and Jaegers of the World from

Klaus Malling Olsen and Hans Larsson (1995) Terns of Europe and North America. 175 pages Published in US by Princeton University Press (ISBN: 0691043876)

A excellent treatment of the 23 species found regularly in Europe and North America. Majority of plumage stages are covered, as are important topics such as molt timing and identification of subspecies. Illustrated with more than 40 color plates by Hans Larsson and 48 pages of color photographs.

Click here to purchase Terns of Europe and North America from

Seabirds of the World : The Complete Reference by Jim Enticott and David Tipling Published in July, 1997 by Stackpole Books (ISBN: 0811702391). Hardcover, 240 pages.
A must for pelagic enthusiasts! A valuable reference on the gulls and terns of the world.

Click here to purchase Seabirds of the World: The Complete Reference from

Page and photos copyright of Angus Wilson© 2000 All rights reserved.

More books and videos about oceanic birds and mammals
Guide to the best pelagic locations in the World
Annotated list of the World's Seabirds
Annotated list of the World's Marine Mammals
Main Photo Archive
Recommended Web sites
Back to the Index Page