Ring-billed Gull

Larus delawarensis
A Ring-billed Gull specimen on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

A medium-sized (19 inches) seagull, the Ring-billed Gull is most easily identified by its pale orange eye, yellow legs, and conspicuous black ring on its yellow bill. Winter and immature gulls of many species are notoriously difficult to identify as these birds may be splotched or streaked with brown on the head and breast. Male and female Ring-billed Gulls are similar to one another in all seasons. The Ring-billed Gull breeds across a large part of southern Canada and the northern United States. Most populations of this species are migratory, wintering along the coasts from British Columbia south to central Mexico in the west, from New England south to Florida in the east, in parts of the interior southeast, and around Great Salt Lake in Utah. Ring-billed Gulls occur throughout the year in parts of the Pacific Northwest and the Great Lakes. Ring-billed Gulls primarily breed on small sparsely-vegetated islands in northern lakes. In winter, this species is often present along sandy beaches, but may also be found inland on reservoirs or around garbage dumps. Ring-billed Gulls eat a variety of foods, including crustaceans, fish, carrion, garbage, and, occasionally, other birds. Ring-billed Gulls are most easily seen foraging for food along sandy beaches. In many coastal areas, this is one of the most common winter “seagulls,” and may be seen foraging for refuse and carrion on the beach, flying over the water and plunging in to catch fish, or floating on the water’s surface while catching fish with its bill. Ring-billed Gulls are primarily active during the day.

DC Information

A very common migrant, February to May and July to November. Seen in flocks inland in fields and parking lots. Adults are pure white with deep pearly gray backs and wings in spring, while immatures have grayish brown backs. Sexes are alike.

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Larus delawarensis

Sound from xeno-canto. XC11857 Larus delawarensis (Ring-billed Gull)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC11858 Larus delawarensis (Ring-billed Gull)