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Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis


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Ring-billed Gull, breeding plumage
credit: NA/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Laridae, Gulls and Terns view all from this family

Description ADULT SUMMER Has pale gray back and upper wing, except for white-spotted black wingtips and pale trailing edge. Plumage, including tail, is otherwise white. Bill is yellow with dark subterminal band, and iris and legs are yellow. ADULT WINTER Similar, but head and neck are streaked brown and leg and bill colors are duller. JUVENILE Has mottled gray and brown plumage, palest on head; note also, pinkish legs and dark bill and eye. First-winter plumage (acquired in fall) is similar, but back is gray, bill is pink but dark-tipped, iris is pale, and tail has dark terminal band. By second winter, plumage approaches that of winter adult, but retains faint, narrow dark band on tail.

Dimensions Length: 18-20" (46-51 cm)

Habitat Widespread and generally common across much of central and southern North America, although range changes seasonally: breeds colonially beside lakes in Canada and northern U.S.; out_side breeding season, northern populations move south and in winter found along coasts, and near freshwater and food sources inland.

Observation Tips Easy to see on most coasts, including populated beaches and seafronts, outside breeding season. Some individuals actively seek out people for food and are a common sight in littered parking lots and at garbage heaps.

Range Southeast, Great Lakes, Rocky Mountains, Southwest, Northwest, Plains, California, Eastern Canada, Alaska, New England, Texas, Western Canada, Florida, Mid-Atlantic

Voice Utters a mewing kyow call, higher-pitched than that of larger, similar gulls.

Discussion Our most familiar gull. Often bold and approachable, and an opportunistic feeder, quick to capitalize on manmade sources of food and seasonal natural bounties. Takes 2 years to reach adult plumage. Sexes are similar.