Comprehensive Guide to selected species of:
Birds of the Boreal Forest « back to Guide
Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis
Family: Gulls and Terns, Laridae
Audio: Martyn Stewart, © Naturesound.org
An estimated 22% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.
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. See Mew Gull.
Habitat Lakes and rivers; many move to salt water in winter.
Nesting 2-4 spotted buff or olive eggs in a hollow in the ground, sometimes lined with grass or debris. In the North they sometimes nest in low trees. Nests in colonies, often with other gulls or terns, usually on islands in lakes.
Voice Loud, raucous mewing cry, like that of Herring Gull but higher pitched.
Range Breeds in Northwest (locally south to California), northern Great Plains, and southern prairie provinces of Canada; also in Great Lakes region, Canadian Maritimes, and northern New England. Winters on coasts, rivers, and lakes from southern New England south to Cuba, from Great Lakes to Gulf Coast, and from British Columbia to southern Mexico.
Discussion In most of the northern part of the United States the Ring-billed Gull is a winter visitor, less common than the Herring Gull. However, in some inland areas and in the Deep South it is the more numerous of the two species. It often nests in very large colonies; as many as 85,000 pairs nest on a single island in Lake Ontario. 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.