Ring-billed Gull – to sea or not to sea, that is the question!
Tags: 'Flight', 'flotilla', 'squabble', 19th century, adults return each year, any type of refuse, Atlantic, Atlantic Ocean, attractive red outline to eye, beak, behaviour and location, bill color, black and white primaries, Black-headed Gull, burger, burger joint, burger joint around the corner, cafe, Canada, carried eastward, Central America, changes in plumage, Chroicocephalus ridibundus, Colonies, common species, dark ring around the beak, demise in large parts of their range, diverse food sources, diverse subjects, down the coasts, England, equinoctial gales, established themselves in Ireland, Europe, exploit diverse food sources, extensively used in hats, eye ring, Fall River, fast food, fast food gull, fast food outlets, feed on shellfish, flap their wings, food, food sources, gales, gape, Great Britain, gull, gulls, handsome birds, identification at a distance, identification feature, immature gull, in flight, invasive species, Ireland, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, lakes, Larus delawarensis, Larus ridibundus, many waterways, Massachusetts, Mexico, migratory, millinery, millinery trade, moving to the coasts, nest in colonies, nesting, New England, not confined to the USA, note-worthy identification feature, omnivore, onset of winter, opportunistic feeder, parking lot, plumage, previous nest, primaries, raucously screaming, red outline to eye, remain in flight, Ring-billed Gull, rivers, salt water, scavengers, scavengers of the sea, seagull, search box, seashore, sitting quietly, small colonies, Soar, southerly direction, species, standard mix of black white and grey, strong equinoctial gales, subtle varieties of leg and bill colour, tail coverts, they can soar, upper tail coverts, USA, waterways, white with brown streaks and dots, wings, winter, worms
One constant when you visit the seashore, it seems, is the presence of gulls. Whether raucously screaming or just sitting quietly, these scavengers of the sea are ever with us. At first glance, all gulls seem to be the same, apart from the difference in size between species, and the subtle varieties of leg and bill colour, eye ring, and some changes in plumage (which seems to have a standard mix of black, white and grey). Indeed, given the fact that the ‘standard’ plumage of several of the immature common gull species seems to be ‘white with brown streaks and dots’, identification at a distance can be a problem.
This is where behaviour and location come into to play. The Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) shown here at Fall River, Massachusetts, is close to a parking lot, and a café. This gull (like most others) is an omnivore, and a very opportunistic feeder; it will feed on shellfish, worms, and almost any type of refuse, if it can; it is sometimes called the ‘fast food gull’ because of its tendency to hang out near fast food outlets! The dark ‘ring’ around the beak (which is yellow) is its most note-worthy identification feature, although the attractive red outline to eye and gape is seen in close-up, along with the black upper tail coverts and black and white primaries.
Ring-billed Gulls nest in colonies and the adults return each year to the same area, often nesting within a few feet of their previous nest. They are migratory, moving to the coasts, or down the coasts in a southerly direction with the onset of winter. They are not confined to the USA, Canada, Mexico and Central America, however, as small colonies have established themselves in Ireland and Great Britain. This may be due to the fact that they can soar, as well as flap their wings to remain in flight, perhaps leading to their being carried eastward across the Atlantic Ocean on strong equinoctial gales.
Like the Black-headed Gull ( Chroicocephalus ridibundus, sometimes, Larus ridibundus) in Europe, many of these gulls will never see salt water! They are quite at home on lakes and rivers, being able to exploit diverse food sources wherever they find them (there’s always a burger joint around the corner, right?) The millinery trade in the 19th century was nearly responsible for their demise in large parts of their range (their plumage was extensively used in hats of the period), but fortunately they have rebounded, and you can see many a ‘squabble’ or ‘flotilla’ of these handsome birds along many waterways. After all, you may be looking at the next Jonathan Livingston Seagull !
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