Unusual Behavior – Ring-billed Gull Preening In Flight

/, Ring-billed Gulls, Salt Lake County, Utah/Unusual Behavior – Ring-billed Gull Preening In Flight

Ring-billed Gull in flight in late afternoon lightRing-billed Gull in flight in late afternoon light – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/3200, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

When you spend as much time in the field observing and photographing birds as I do you are bound to see unusual behaviors now and then, yesterday was one of those days for me. While photographing birds at my local pond yesterday afternoon I noticed a Ring-billed Gull flying in over the pond and what caught my eye about this particular gull was that the belly of the bird seemed more rounded than normal so I aimed my lens towards the gull, locked on my focus and took some photos of it thinking that later on I could view the images on my monitor and perhaps figure out why the bird’s belly seemed so large.

Ring-billed Gull preening breast feathers in flightRing-billed Gull preening breast feathers in flight – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/4000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Three frames later I was glad this Ring-billed Gull’s rotund belly caught my eye when through my viewfinder I could see the gull preening while in flight which is unusual behavior in my experience. I’ve spent a lot of time photographing Ring-billed Gulls over the years and this is the first time I have ever seen or photographed this behavior in a gull species.

Turkey Vultures are the bird species I most often see preening while in flight and it always surprises me when I see them preening in mid air because it seems like it would be rather difficult to maintain flight and preen at the same time.

Preening Ring-billed Gull in flightPreening Ring-billed Gull in flight – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/5000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

The Ring-billed Gull was flying forward while its eyes were facing the opposite direction and I didn’t notice the flight of the bird slowing down or becoming erratic at all it just appeared to glide forward without flapping its wings.

Ring-billed Gull preening in flightRing-billed Gull preening in flight – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/3200, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

The time stamp on the first photo of the Ring-billed Gull preening in flight was 15:52:05.056 and the time stamp of the last photo of it preening was 15:52:07.003, which is 1.947 or almost two seconds that the gull spent preening while moving forward in mid air.

When the gull stopped preening it flew down to the surface of the pond and took a drink of water then I lost track of it because there were about 30 other gulls in close proximity on the water.

I’m certain that I could come up with some rather funny captions for the photos of this Ring-billed Gull preening in flight but I wanted to be truthful about what I saw and photographed with my captions, the gull does look kind of goofy though.

Life is good. Birds keep it interesting.

Mia

9 Comments

  1. sue johnson January 23, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    there’s some red in the corner of the bill. could there be a connection?

  2. Laura Culley January 22, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    I would have said what EC said had my computer been working with me instead of against me! Alas, no!
    Anyway, that gull IS showing off. I’ve watched two other (falconry) birds do that and it just made me want to jump species right that second!!! LOL!

    • Elephants Child January 22, 2018 at 2:05 pm

      I would cross species in a heart beat.

  3. Elephants Child January 22, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    That gull is just showing off. As if flying wasn’t enough, it has to multi-task in the air.

  4. April Olson January 22, 2018 at 11:22 am

    If you have ever been bitten by some of the lice birds can get, it bet you would preen in mid flight too!

  5. Pepe Forte January 22, 2018 at 11:11 am

    Fascinating series of shots Mia. Thanks.

  6. Marty K January 22, 2018 at 11:04 am

    Like Liz said, if you’ve got an itch… 😉 Thanks for sharing such an unusual behavior with us. I have enough trouble walking withOUT trying to multitask! 🙂

  7. Patty Chadwick one of my favorite birds January 22, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Very interesting behavior…I ‘ve never seen a bird do that…sure hope it was aware of where it was going! i wonder if it has done that before…

  8. Liz Cormack January 22, 2018 at 8:26 am

    When you’ve got an itch, you bite it….even if you are flying. Great series of photos

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