Living Bird Magazine
Ring-billed GullLarus delawarensis
- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Laridae
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.More ID Info
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.
- Gaviota de del aware (Spanish)
- Goéland à bec cerclé (French)
- Cool Facts
- Ring-billed Gulls near Tampa Bay, Florida, became accustomed to feasting on garbage at an open landfill site. Then, in 1983, operators replaced the dumping grounds with closed incinerators. The thwarted scavengers found themselves another open dump, but the pattern continues all across the gull's range. When waste-management practices shift from open landfills to closed incinerators, gull numbers often drop.
- Some Ring-billed Gull nests at study sites in California and Oregon contained pebbles the size and shape of gull eggs. The parents apparently pulled the pebbles into their nests from the surrounding ground, mistaking them for eggs gone astray.
- Ring-billed Gull nesting colonies normally include a small percentage of two-female couples. Fertilized by an obliging male, each female spouse lays a clutch of eggs, leading to 5–7-egg "superclutches."
- Many, if not most, Ring-billed Gulls return to breed at the colony where they hatched. Once they have bred, they are likely to return to the same breeding spot each year, often nesting within a few meters of the last year's nest site. Many individuals return to the same wintering sites each winter too.
- Although it is considered a typical large white-headed gull, the Ring-billed Gull has been known to hybridize only with smaller, black-headed species, such as Franklin's, Black-headed, and Laughing gulls.
- Migrating Ring-billed Gulls apparently use a built-in compass to navigate. When tested at only two days of age, chicks showed a preference for magnetic bearings that would take them in the appropriate direction for their fall migration. The gulls also rely on landmarks and high-altitude winds to provide directional cues.
- The oldest recorded Ring-billed Gull was at least 27 years, 6 months old when it was found in New York.