One of the most widespread and easiest to identify gulls, the ring-billed gull is a common bird in parking lots, parks, beaches and other urban and suburban habitats. Despite not being a popular backyard bird, this gull is familiar to many birders.
- Bill: Thick, yellow, black subterminal band
- Size: 18 inches long with 48-inch wingspan
- Colors: White, gray, yellow, black, red, brown
- Markings: Birds take three years to reach adult plumage; juvenile birds are mottled brown, gray and white with a pinkish bill. Adults have a white body with pale to medium gray wings and back. Legs and feet are yellow or greenish-yellow, and yellow eyes are surrounded by a thin red orbital ring that can be hard to see. Wing tips are black with white spots. Winter plumage is similar but with brown spots on the head and nape of the neck.
Habitat and Migration:
Ring-billed gulls are common summer birds in the northern United States and southern central Canada, and they typically migrate to the southeastern, central and all coastal regions of the United States as well as throughout Mexico in the winter. Year-round populations can be found near the Great Lakes and in Idaho and eastern Oregon and Washington. These birds are adaptable to nearly any habitat that features large bodies of water, and they are also commonly found in parking lots and urban areas where they feed on refuse.
The ring-billed gull’s shrill, raspy “oooow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow” call is its most familiar, but a laughing “ha-ha-ha-ha-ha” cackle is also common. These birds can be very vocal and raucous in large flocks.
Ring-billed gulls are very active scavengers that frequently congregate in large flocks that may be mixed with other types of gulls. They will forage while wading, walking or swimming, and can become aggressive at picnic areas and other locations where food scraps are common.
These are typically monogamous birds that tend to nest in large colonies. Both parents will incubate the nest of 2-4 eggs for 22-28 days, and will feed the fledgling birds for 35 days until they are able to forage on their own. Mated birds raise one brood per year.
Attracting Ring-Billed Gulls:
No species of gulls are common backyard birds, but birders who live near large bodies of water may attract ring-billed gulls with mealworms or kitchen scraps.
- California Gull (Larus californicus)
- Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)
- Mew Gull (Larus canus)