I like gulls, I like the way they look, I like the way they fly, I like the way they try to steal food from each other and other birds, I like the challenges of photographing them and I really like how scrappy they are.
Ring-billed Gull flying over a freshwater marsh – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/3200, ISO 800, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
Yes, I know in some areas they can be considered pests or too common to pay attention to and that some bird photographers will walk or drive right by them without taking a single photo. I’m not one of those bird photographers, when I have the opportunity I will photograph them.
Ring-billed Gulls are one of two gull species that afford me the opportunity to photograph them quite often because they are seen here in Utah year round. The other species is our state bird, the California Gull.
I photographed this Ring-billed last week as it flew over the freshwater marsh at Farmington Bay WMA, it may have been looking for food to catch itself or it may have been looking for another bird to steal food from.
Ring-billed Gull hunting for food – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/4000, ISO 800, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
I took photos of this Ring-billed Gull the same day as it flew over hunting for food too. To the untrained eye they might even look like the same bird but for me a quick glance tells me that the bird in the first photo is younger than the one in this image. How? Adult Ring-billed Gulls don’t have black spots on their tails in breeding or nonbreeding plumage. The gull in the top photo I would label a second winter bird (even though it is fall right now and not technically winter yet) using the illustrations in the Sibley Guide to Birds. This gull I’d label an adult in nonbreeding plumage.
I always find it fun and challenging to photograph Ring-billed Gulls in flight but I also enjoy trying to figure out how old the immature birds are. Perhaps that shows the geekier, birder side of me more than the bird photographer but I’m actually a combination of both.
Life is good.
Ring-billed Gull facts and information:
- Ring-billed Gulls are medium-sized gulls with slim short bills that show a black ring at the tip when they are adults. They are a soft gray above with white heads during the breeding season and brownish streaked heads in nonbreeding plumage. They have yellow legs.
- They are sociable gulls and will fly and flock together in the hundreds or thousands.
- Ring-billed Gulls can be found at inland bodies of water during the breeding season and coastal beaches during the winter. They can also be found at dumps, parking lots, and freshly plowed agricultural fields.
- During the 19th century these gulls were hunted for their plumage.
- They lay 2 to 4 eggs which hatch in 21 to 28 days, both sexes incubate.
- They are migratory.
- A group of gulls can be called a “squabble”, “flotilla”, “screech” and “scavenging” of gulls.
- Ring-billed Gulls can live up to 32 years.