Ring-Billed Gull

Larus delawarensis
Range Map

The Ring-Billed Gull can be difficult to distinguish from the California Gull. Both breed in the interior of North America. Winters find these birds moving to the coasts of North America, or to its southern states and into much of Mexico, where the California Gulls spends their winters only on the Pacific coast.

We often find these gulls in the western USA, and where they share territory with California Gulls, mistaken identities can be a problem. Adult Ring-Billed Gulls have a pale iris, while those of the California Gull are dark brown. There are other distinguishing marks to differentiate the two species, but I find this key useful.

Taxonomists regard the Ring-Billed Gull as monotypic (there are no subspecies recognized).

Most of my meetings with this species have been in California, but I’ve also found them in Oregon, Idaho, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas. The first time I met this species in Texas, they were perching on foraging Brown Pelicans, and hoping for a free meal from the larger birds. I didn’t see any successful thieving, but the boldness they displayed, was remarkable. They even spent time perched on the larger bird’s heads.

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