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Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Ring-billed Gull

Larus delawarensis ORDER: CHARADRIIFORMES FAMILY: LARIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Familiar acrobats of the air, Ring-billed Gulls nimbly pluck tossed tidbits from on high. Comfortable around humans, they frequent parking lots, garbage dumps, beaches, and fields, sometimes by the hundreds. These are the gulls you're most likely to see far away from coastal areas—in fact, most Ring-billed Gulls nest in the interior of the continent, near freshwater. A black band encircling the yellow bill helps distinguish adults from other gulls—but look closely, as some other species have black or red spots on the bill.

Year End Match
BNA ML combo package

Keys to identification Help

Gulls
Gulls
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    The Ring-billed is a medium-sized gull with a fairly short, slim bill. When the gull perches, its long, slender wings extend well past its square-tipped tail. In flight, the birds move lightly on easy flaps of their fairly slender wings.

  • Color Pattern

    Adults are clean gray above, with a white head, body and tail; their black wingtips are spotted with white. They have yellow legs and a yellow bill with a black band around it. Nonbreeding adults have brown-streaked heads. During their first two years, Ring-billed Gulls are a motley brown and gray with a pink bill and legs.

  • Behavior

    These sociable gulls often fly overhead by the hundreds or feed together at a golf course, beach, or field. Strong, nimble flyers and opportunistic feeders, Ring-billed Gulls circle and hover acrobatically looking for food; they also forage afloat and on foot.

  • Habitat

    Ring-billed Gulls often congregate around humans, at garbage dumps, parking lots, and freshly plowed fields. While the species is common on coastal beaches, particularly during winter, many Ring-billed Gulls lead inland lives, never setting eyes on the sea.

Range Map Help

Ring-billed Gull Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult breeding

    Ring-billed Gull

    Adult breeding
    • Small, chunky gull with rounded head
    • Short yellow bill with black ring at tip
    • Snowy white head and breast
    • Yellow-green legs
    • © Nancy Clark, Gimli, Manitoba, Canada, May 2011
  • Adult breeding

    Ring-billed Gull

    Adult breeding
    • Small, chunky gull with short bill
    • Adult shows yellow eye with red skin around eye in summer
    • White head and chest, pale gray back
    • Yellow bill with black ring at tip
    • © Guy Lichter, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, May 2011
  • Adult nonbreeding

    Ring-billed Gull

    Adult nonbreeding
    • Small, short-billed gull
    • Faint gray/brown streaks on head
    • Yellow bill with black ring near tip
    • Yellow-green legs
    • © Bill Thompson, Warwick, Rhode Island, December 2010
  • Adult nonbreeding

    Ring-billed Gull

    Adult nonbreeding
    • Small and chunky gull
    • Yellow bill with black ring near tip
    • Yellow-green legs
    • Dark streaking on white head, yellow eye
    • © Sarah L, North East, Maryland, December 2009
  • Adult nonbreeding

    Ring-billed Gull

    Adult nonbreeding
    • Thin, pointed wings
    • Yellow bill with black ring near tip
    • Mostly snowy white underneath
    • Contrasting black wing-tips with small white spots
    • © Michael J. Andersen, Jones Beach State Park, New York, December 2009
  • First summer

    Ring-billed Gull

    First summer
    • Small, chunky gull
    • Faint streaks on white head
    • Dark eye
    • Pinkish yellow bill with black ring near tip
    • © Cameron Rognan, Lansing, New York, August 2008
  • First summer

    Ring-billed Gull

    First summer
    • Small, chunky gull
    • Yellow-green legs
    • Faint dark streaks on white head
    • Black eye
    • © Gary Tyson, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, June 2011
  • First winter

    Ring-billed Gull

    First winter
    • Small gull with long, slender wings
    • Dense brown mottling on head and sides of breast
    • Pale gray back
    • Pink bill with clean-cut black tip
    • © tsiya, St. Augustine, Florida, December 2009
  • First winter

    Ring-billed Gull

    First winter
    • Small, chunky gull
    • Pink bill with clean-cut black tip
    • Heavy streaking on head
    • Brown wing coverts
    • © Michael J. Andersen, Brooklyn, New York, December 2009
  • Juvenile

    Ring-billed Gull

    Juvenile
    • Small, chunky gull with rounded head
    • Mottled brown overall
    • Black eye
    • Pink bill with black tip
    • © BlackRose, Tappen Beach, Glenwood Landing, New York, August 2009

Similar Species

  • Adult breeding

    Herring Gull

    Adult breeding
    • Significantly larger than Ring-billed Gull with longer, thicker bill
    • Pink legs
    • Yellow bill shows red spot at tip of lower mandible
    • © Ganesh Jayaraman, May 2011
  • First winter

    Herring Gull

    First winter
    • Similar to immature or first winter Ring-billed Gull but larger
    • Blocky head with long, thick black bill
    • Pink legs
    • © Jeff H, Titusville, Florida, February 2011
  • Adult breeding

    California Gull

    Adult breeding
    • Larger than Ring-billed Gull with longer bill
    • Red spot behind black band at tip of bill
    • Back darker gray than Ring-billed Gull
    • © Robinsegg, Salt Lake City, Utah, May 2009
  • Adult nonbreeding

    Mew Gull

    Adult nonbreeding
    • Smaller and daintier than Ring-billed Gull
    • Short, slender bill
    • Small, rounded head
    • Large black eye
    • © Bill Thompson, Anchorage, Alaska, October 2010

Similar Species

Herring Gulls are noticeably larger than Ring-billed Gulls and have a thicker bill. Adult Herring Gulls are a similar shade of gray above, but they have pink legs and lack a dark ring around the bill. Immature Herring Gulls are best separated from Ring-billed Gulls by their thicker bill and larger size. In the West, similarly sized California Gulls can occur with Ring-billed Gulls. With adults, look for the California Gull's two bill spots (one black, one red), instead of the Ring-billed Gull's ring. Adult California Gulls are also slightly darker gray on the wings and back. Immature California Gulls tend to be darker and browner than immature Ring-billed Gulls. Laughing Gulls are much darker gray on the back than Ring-billed Gulls. They have a completely black head in the summer, a dark-smudged head in winter, and a dark bill.

Regional Differences

None

Find This Bird

Look for these gulls in parking lots, at sporting events, and around sewage ponds and garbage dumps. You may see them foraging for insects and worms in newly plowed fields, or perching atop light poles near shopping malls and fast-food restaurants. They also frequent reservoirs, lakes, marshes, mudflats, and beaches.