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.
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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.
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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.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Ring-billed Gull

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate threats facing the Ring-billed Gull

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

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