Ring-billed Gulls at Bear River MBR & How the Migratory Bird Treaty Act Saved Them

/, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Birds, Box Elder County, Ring-billed Gulls, Utah/Ring-billed Gulls at Bear River MBR & How the Migratory Bird Treaty Act Saved Them

Ring-billed Gull in flight over open waterRing-billed Gull in flight over open water – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/4000, ISO 500, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Yesterday I shared a photo of a Barn Owl in flight taken last January from the auto tour route at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge on a clear day and I thought I would share some other images I took that same morning. Usually some water stays open during the winter at the refuge and those small areas of open water attract waterfowl, the herons that are year round residents, eagles, coots and scads of gulls.

Some people don’t like gulls and some can’t stand them at all but I do like them and love to photograph them when I have the opportunity.

There were at least 50 Ring-billed Gulls at Bear River MBR diving into the open water looking for fish that winter morning which gave me plenty of chances to photograph them. There were other species of gulls around that morning too but I will share those at a later date.

Winter Ring-billed Gull at Bear River MBRWinter Ring-billed Gull at Bear River MBR – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/6400, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Ring-billed Gulls were hunted for their plumage in the late 19th century for the millinery trade and were among approximately 50 species of North American birds that were slaughtered just for their feathers. The feathers were stuck on ladies hats and other garments and considered quite fashionable.

Fortunately two Boston socialites, Harriet Hemenway and her cousin, Minna Hall, started a movement to protect birds after Harriet read an article that explained how many birds were being killed and asked Minna to help her by asking their socialite friends to stop wearing feathers, boycott the trade and then they formed the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Some women kept wearing their feathered garments but more than 900 women joined the Massachusetts Audubon Society and after more chapters opened in other areas the National Audubon Society was formed.

Ring-billed Gull in landing poseRing-billed Gull in landing pose – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/3200, ISO 500, +1.0 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Thanks to the movement of Harriet and Minna, other environmentally-minded citizens, the National Audubon Society and concerned members of the scientific communities the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was passed in 1918 which makes it unlawful without a waiver to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill or sell birds listed as “migratory” and also grants full protection to any bird parts including feathers, eggs and nests.

Hovering Ring-billed Gull in winterHovering Ring-billed Gull in winter – Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/4000, ISO 500, +1.0 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

After the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was passed and the birds were protected they began to recover and thrive. As a bird lover, birder and bird photographer I can’t imagine a world without the species that were saved by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act including what is probably the most common gull of North  America, the Ring-billed Gull.

I wish I could personally thank Harriet and Minna for helping to end the feather trade.

Life is good.



  1. Linda Laugen October 31, 2016 at 11:25 pm

    SO much great info – thanks! Gulls can indeed be nasty, sloppy litterers (if you get my point!) Plus I’ve seen them at Jones Beach on LI taking potato chips from babies, screeching about their “rights” – or something! And I’ve decided those NEW YORK gulls are more feisty and rude than any others! BRAZEN is what it is!!

    But to me, there is no denying they are gorgeous – what they look like, in sunshine, rain, fog – no matter. And how they swoop and soar and swoop again – YES – grace in motion!

    All of your pictures are fantastic! Some are nearly perfect! However, this one of the Hovering Ring-Billed Gull IS perfect! Absolutely perfect, Mia! THANK YOU for all of your gifts! God’s too!

  2. Elephant's Child October 31, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    That final shot is incredible. So much beauty. So much grace.
    Where it belongs, on the owner.

  3. Patty Chadwick October 31, 2016 at 9:12 am

    I think you do thank those two great ladies every single day…by sharing your amazing photos, your comments, the educational information you share and your conservation efforts. These images, highlighting the beauty of gulls, are a perfect example. I especially like the first and last images. The last reminds me of an Olympic diver about to win a gold medal…unusualmand beautiful….

  4. Wendy Chapman October 31, 2016 at 7:22 am

    The first two images are lovely. The colors clarity and softness are so pretty. It is wonderful the birds will be safe and helps to balance some of the otherwise senseless decisions we deal with daily.

  5. pennypinchadventure Tim Traver October 31, 2016 at 7:21 am

    A fitting tribute!

  6. Bob McPherson October 31, 2016 at 7:21 am

    Beautiful photos, Mia.

  7. Mia McPherson October 31, 2016 at 7:06 am

    After I wrote and published this I thought about a few things.

    It helped me to write this about these two strong women and what they accomplished by seeing a wrong and working to make it right.

    I’ve been feeling devastated by the jury finding the thugs who held our refuge hostage for 41 days and the destruction they caused on the refuge, sickened by seeing peaceful protesters being arrested for wanting to save our water from being polluted, my deep concerns about climate change and how quickly it will affect the world we will leave behind for future generations including my children and their children, my anger about the nasty politicians who want to steal away our public lands and to allow them to be bought and destroyed, by reading about how many animals are endangered and how some political factions want to strip away the protections that they need to survive and seeing how we pollute our oceans and put all of our lives at risk.

    It helps to remember that even two people can make a difference and that we can all make a difference.

    • Utahbooklover October 31, 2016 at 12:32 pm

      Yes, there is always hope as long as we don’t give up. Read this 30 Oct. excerpt:

      Dan Ashe, director of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, told The Oregonian/OregonLive that refuge employees were disappointed with the verdict and had “frustration with what they see as a failure in this process.”

      But in one sideways nod to Bundy’s cause, federal and state agencies have begun paying attention to decades-old Western land debates in a way they wouldn’t have without the 41 uneasy days of the occupation.

      They’re working to develop and nurture partnerships with ranchers, environmentalists and local governments to manage federal refuges, forests, and rangelands.

      “The occupation brought into a very sharp focus both the intensity and the speed at which we need to tackle these issues,” Gov. Kate Brown said.

      They’ve highlighted Harney County as a national model for how cattle country can work with bureaucrats.

      The High Desert Partnership in Burns is bringing together traditionally adversarial interests and creating alliances on the refuge, Sally Jewell said a recent interview.

      Over 11 years, ranchers, conservationists, local officials and others crafted a new way of business at the refuge — a sprawling scrubby rangeland spotted with marshes, lakes and other waterways that provide sanctuary for 320 bird species and other wildlife.

      Their deal allows cattle grazing, water management and wildlife recovery at the same time in the same place. The effort is considered a prototype for letting the community, not the government, drive the work.

Comments are closed.