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Ring-Billed Gull
Larus delawarensis
ring-billed gull
Ring-billed gull, photographed at John. D. MacArthur Beach State Park, North Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, in February 2016.
ring billed gull

East coast, west coast, north, south and many points in between. The ring-billed gull, Larus delawarensis, is everywhere. Almost everywhere.

Ring-billed gulls are one of the most common and widespread gulls in North America. Stroll a Florida beach in winter and there's a fair chance, you'll encounter this gray and white bird.

In summer, ring-billed gulls have a white head and body with a gray back and wings that are black-tipped with white spots and a red ring around each eye. The bill is on the short short side for a gull and has a black ring near the tip. In winter, the white head becomes slightly streaked with browns and grays; the red eye ring disappears.

First-year ring-billed gulls are mottled brown with pink legs, similar to herring gulls. Adult ring-billeds are also similar to herring gulls, but herring gulls lack the black ring, but sport conspicuous a red spot near the tip of the lower bill. Herring gulls are also bigger. Ring-billed gulls are about a foot-and-a-half to two feet long, with wingspan under four feet.

The range of the ring-billed spans a good chunk of North America. In summer, they breed along the northern tier of the United States and much of provincial Canada. In winter, they retreat to both coasts and rivers and lakes of south-central United States, into Mexico and the Caribbean. During fall and spring migrations, the birds can be spotted almost anywhere in between.

ring billed gull

Their natural habitats are mostly around water — beaches, mudflats, rivers and lakes — but they'll congregate at garbage dumps looking for food. They'll be spotted in cities and the 'burbs, in parking lots and farms. They're more likely to be found inland than most other gulls. Watch a ballgame in some cities and you might spot ring-billed gulls flying about.

Their diets are broad — fish, bugs, rodents, garbage and to a lesser extent fruits and grains. According to the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, some ring-billed gulls out west feed entirely from farmers' fields. They forage while flying, while walking, while swimming.

Ring-billed gulls breed in the northern tier of the U.S. and much of Canada. They nest on the ground in open areas near water. Both partners build the nest, using grass, twigs and other vegetation. Clutches are typically two to four eggs, which require three to four weeks of incubation before hatching. Both males and females share sitting duties. Both also feed the very young — hatchlings are capable of wandering in a day or two and capable of feeding themselves in five to 10 days. They fledge at five weeks. There are also rare "super clutches," with more than four eggs. They occur when two females bond and mate with a single male.

Ring-billed gulls are members of Laridae, the gull family.

Photographs by David Sedore

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Links for Ring-Billed Gull Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology National Audubon Society National Geographic Society
Unless otherwise stated, all photographs are property of the publishers and may not be used without their express permission.