Ring-billed Gulls

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I am not sure why but it seems that many bird photographers avoid taking images of gulls, most of the time when I’ve asked them why they don’t take more photos of gulls I hear “I just don’t like gulls”.

Ring-billed Gull in front of crashing waves

 Ring-billed Gull in front of crashing waves   Nikon D200, f5.6, 1/3000, ISO 320, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 300mm, natural light, not baited

Gulls can be very noisy, act like scavengers, snatch food right out of your hands and are often associated with waste management facilities and because of that they might be called garbage birds. I’m not disputing any of that.

But I do believe that photographs of gulls can be stunning, very appealing and done right they can be considered artistic and visually stimulating. There are bird photographers who will drive right by the opportunity to photograph them though. I am not one of those photographers.

Ring-billed Gull Portrait

 Ring-billed Gull Portrait – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/2000, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 280mm, natural light, not baited

I’m the type of bird photographer who will photograph any bird. Large, small,  common, uncommon, beautiful or homely;  all birds have a place in my portfolio. I guess you could say I am unbiased when it comes to the birds I photograph.

In the case of gulls “we” have encroached on their habitat, we flock to the beaches that they once only shared with other birds and animals and open hot dogs stands and drop our food where the gulls can easily find it. It’s not really their fault that they have adapted to humans being sloppy.

We have open waste management areas where the gulls can readily find edible wastes, it isn’t really their fault for taking advantage of the easy pickins’ we create.

Personally I don’f find the calls of gull annoying but then I have lived in places where there weren’t any gulls and I really missed hearing them, sort of my own version of “Silent Spring”.

Ring-billed Gull floating on a breeze

Ring-billed Gull floating on a breeze – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm at 400mm, natural light, not baited

I do know that gulls are graceful in flight, have amazing variations of leg, eye, and bill colors and delightfully different plumage patterns in the different gull species and even within each species as they mature. Nearly all of them have striking white feathers combined with varying shades of grays, browns and blacks. What’s not to like about that?

They can be a challenge to expose properly but in the end I believe they are well worth the time I invest in photographing common birds that can be uncommonly beautiful.



  1. Dan Huber December 19, 2011 at 5:22 am

    Wonderful post and images Mia. I am also one to take shots of any bird, and I actually enjoy watching gulls, especially in summer when the adventure of figuring ID’s on the juveniles. Nothing like watching one hover over the beach in strong wind to catch your breath. Cheers


    • Mia McPherson December 20, 2011 at 6:16 am

      Thank you very much Dan. Gulls in flight can be great pratice for learning how to photograph birds in flight. I also think they are beautiful when they hang in the wind and just slowly glide by.

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