Published on February 15, 2013 by Amy
This gull is a scavenger. It will eat fish, rodents, small aquatic animals, bird chicks and eggs, and sometimes grasshoppers. It is best known for frequenting landfills, garbage dumps, and following ships which dump refuse overboard . It will also scavenge from plowed fields, parks, and parking lots. In fact, these gulls might be seen squabbling over discarded items from fast-food restaurants. In flight, the Ring-billed Gull is able to snatch food from the water’s surface.
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Though some gulls hunt fish, insects, other animals, or bird eggs, others are the vultures of the sea, feeding on carrion. There are 43 species of gulls, most living fairly far north or south of the equator.
Description 18-20″ (46-51 cm). Adult silvery gray on back, white on head, tail, and underparts. Similar to Herring Gull but smaller, with greenish-yellow feet and narrow black ring around bill. Young birds mottled brown, paler than young Herring Gulls, with blackish tail band and flesh-colored legs. Acquires adult plumage in 3 years.
Voice This gull has a call which sounds like “kree, kree” in a uttered in a screeching fashion or a shrill “kyow kyow kyow” with high-pitched squealing notes . This is also known as the alert call. In addition, the mew call and the long call are produced with respect to different behaviors. For example, the mew call is sounded during courtship feeding, feeding with respect to chicks and other non-aggressive types of behavior. The long call is given during hostile displays and landing. While engaging in aggressive behavior, Ring-billed Gulls will lower their head to their feet, then toss their head backward before ending a long call. During submissive displays, they will draw in their head and neck in a hunched fashion, sounding short, high-pitched “klioo” notes and engaging in head tossing.
This highly social gull will engage in play whereby adults drop objects while airborne, then swoop down and catch them. They may engage in pirating food from other gulls and starlings as well as warding off other birds that may steal their food.
Nesting Nesting occurs in colonies on the ground, or infrequently, in trees near inland lakes. Nest sites may occupy areas with other water birds. Three eggs per clutch are laid that are 6.4 cm long by 4.6 cm wide. The eggs are light blue, green or brownish and spotted. Incubation time is 21 days. Breeding occurs from May to August.
Range This gull ranges from southern Alaska to the north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, south, to southern parts of Oregon and Colorado and northern New York. During the winter, it is found from British Columbia to Maine (including the Great Lakes and Maritime regions, then south to central California to southern Mexico to the Gulf Coast to Cuba. It is also found in Bermuda and Hawaii. This gull winters from southwestern British Columbia and Washington state to the Great Lakes region to Nova Scotia then southward
By contrast, colonies of Herring Gulls seldom number more than a few score pairs. Mischaracterized as a seagull, this bird readily follows farm plows or scatters over meadows after heavy rains to feast on drowning earthworms.