Ring-billed Gulls Bathing on New Year’s Day

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Ring-billed Gull bathing in an icy pondRing-billed Gull bathing in an icy pond – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 320, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I mentioned in my Raccoon on ice and my Mallard hen caught in a Ring-billed Gull feeding frenzy posts that I went out to photograph twice on New Year’s Day, first at Farmington Bay WMA in poor light and then later at a local pond when the light was much better. While I was at my local pond there were hundreds of California and Ring-billed Gulls, though the Ring-billed out numbered the California Gulls by far.

The Ring-billed Gulls up close to me were bathing frequently so I focused on them for a bit to catch them splashing and dipping their heads and bodies into the water.

Ring-billed Gull bathing in winterRing-billed Gull bathing in winter – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 320, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

It seemed that when one of the Ring-billed Gulls would start bathing that quite a few of the others that were in the water nearby would start to bathe too. It was challenging to be able to isolate one of the bathing gulls from all the others at times. I was glad there was bright light because that gave me fast enough shutter speeds to freeze the action of the gulls and the splashing water too.

To my eyes the water in these first two photos almost looks like ice.

Ring-billed Gull bathing on New Year's DayRing-billed Gull bathing on New Year’s Day – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1600, ISO 320, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

The gulls would dip their heads deep into the water and when they brought their heads back up some of the water would flow down their backs.

First winter Ring-billed Gull bathingFirst winter Ring-billed Gull bathing – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1000, ISO 320, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

There were adult and immature Ring-billed Gulls bathing and I tried to get photos of both so that I could compare their plumage variations later at home. This gull hatched last breeding season and is going through its first winter.

Bathing Ring-billed Gull in winterBathing Ring-billed Gull in winter – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2000, ISO 320, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

This photo just made me laugh because the gull is in the same pose that I have seen in domestic show pigeons in many times only the gull is on the water not on land.

Ring-billed Gull splashing during bathingRing-billed Gull splashing during bathing – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2000, ISO 320, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I took hundreds of images of the Ring-billed Gulls bathing in the icy water on New Year’s Day and while my fingers were numb with cold these hardy gulls didn’t seem to mind the cold water one bit, in fact they appeared to be invigorated by the frigid water.

It was fun and entertaining to photograph these beautiful gulls and a wonderful way to bring in the new year too.

Life is good.



  1. Patty Chadwick January 5, 2017 at 1:42 pm

    I feel cold just looking at these birds bathing in frigid water…this house tends to be cold and drafty all winter, anyway….they look like they’re having a great time, though….

  2. Elephant's Child January 5, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    Watching bathing birds is a treat which never gets old. It always leaves me with a smile, as did your images. Thank you.

  3. Pepe Forte January 5, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    Great series of pics Mia. Interesting study in movement both with the gull and the water. Thanks.

  4. April Olson January 5, 2017 at 10:22 am

    Lovely photos. I too love watching birds bath. What always amazed me was our cockatiel and an education bald eagle I was familiar with bathed exactly the same way. Our white doves are the only thing that seems to have an odd bathing behavior. They stand in the water and hold one wing up at a time as if expecting a shower. They don’t dip or squat into the water at all.

  5. Bob McPherson January 5, 2017 at 7:27 am

    Beautiful images, Mia. Not often do we get to see birds bathing.

  6. Liz Cormack January 5, 2017 at 7:09 am

    Great series of the Ring-billed Gulls doing their version of a Polar Bear Dip. It looks so cold.

  7. Don January 5, 2017 at 6:56 am

    To see birds on open water is a special treat this time of year! The light on image 3 is sure special; thanks for sharing!

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