Ring-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 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 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 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.