Photo: Stuart Williams/Flickr Creative Commons

Ring-billed Gull

Larus delawarensis

Often the most common and widespread gull in North America, especially inland, and numbers are probably still increasing. Sociable at all seasons; concentrations at nesting colonies or at winter feeding sites may run into the tens of thousands. The Ring-bill has adapted thoroughly to civilization. Flocks are often seen resting in parking lots, scavenging scraps around fast-food restaurants, or swarming over landfills.
Conservation status Seriously depleted by human persecution during late 19th century, but has made strong comeback. Population in 1990 estimated at 3 to 4 million and probably still increasing. Has benefitted from availability of food provided by garbage dumps and farming practices. High populations may have negative impact on nesting Common Terns and other birds.
Family Gulls and Terns
Habitat Lakes, bays, coasts, piers, dumps, plowed fields. Associated with water at all seasons, although it does much of its feeding on land. Favors fresh water as much as salt water, but often common along coast, especially at harbors and estuaries; rarely any distance offshore. Common around cities, docks, farm fields, landfills, other human-altered habitats.
Often the most common and widespread gull in North America, especially inland, and numbers are probably still increasing. Sociable at all seasons; concentrations at nesting colonies or at winter feeding sites may run into the tens of thousands. The Ring-bill has adapted thoroughly to civilization. Flocks are often seen resting in parking lots, scavenging scraps around fast-food restaurants, or swarming over landfills.
Photo Gallery
  • adult, breeding
  • immature (1st year)
  • adult, nonbreeding
  • adult
  • immature (1st year)
Feeding Behavior

Opportunistic. Wide variety of foraging behaviors while walking, wading, swimming, flying. May steal food from other birds. Often scavenges in garbage dumps and other places where food scraps may have been tossed out.


Eggs

2-4, sometimes 1-8. Gray to olive, blotched with brown. (Clutches of more than 4 eggs result from more than one female. Sometimes two females form "pair" and share nest.) Incubation by both sexes, 23-28 days. Young: Both parents bring food for young, and brood them while they are small. Young may wander out of nest by 2nd day, but remain in immediate area. Young capable of flight about 5 weeks after hatching, become independent 5-10 days later.


Young

Both parents bring food for young, and brood them while they are small. Young may wander out of nest by 2nd day, but remain in immediate area. Young capable of flight about 5 weeks after hatching, become independent 5-10 days later.

Diet

Omnivorous. Diet varies with location and season, but major items include insects, fish, earthworms, grain, rodents, and refuse. Forages in freshly plowed fields for grubs and earthworms.


Nesting

Breeds in colonies, sometimes associated with California or Herring gulls. In courtship, both birds stretch upright and alternately face toward and away from each other; male feeds female. Nest site is on ground near water in area with sparse plant growth. Nest (built by both sexes) is shallow cup of grasses, twigs, moss.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Migrates in flocks, often following coastlines or major river systems. Tends to fly higher when migrating over land. Not as hardy as Herring Gull, tends to move farther south in winter.

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Migration

Migrates in flocks, often following coastlines or major river systems. Tends to fly higher when migrating over land. Not as hardy as Herring Gull, tends to move farther south in winter.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Loud, raucous mewing cry, like that of Herring Gull but higher pitched.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Gulls and Terns Gull-like Birds

Ring-billed Gull

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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