Bryan Brillhart Photography Presents Dig Imperial Beach "Bird of the Week", the "Ring-Billed Gull
Jun 30, 2016 05:34AM
By Paul Spear
Bryan Brillhart of Bryan Brillhart Photography presents us with the Dig Imperial Beach “Bird of the Week”. This week’s bird is the "Ring-Billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)"
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Ring-Billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)
This week’s “Bird of the Week” is the Ring-Billed Gull (Larus delawarensis), a medium sized gull. They are often the most common and widespread gull in North America, especially inland, and numbers are probably still increasing. Adults are 49 cm (19 in) length and with a 124 cm (49 in) wingspan. The head, neck and underparts are white; the relatively short bill is yellow
with a dark ring; the back and wings are silver gray; and the legs are yellow. The eyes are yellow with red rims. This gull takes three years to reach its breeding plumage
Sociable at all seasons; concentrations at nesting colonies or at winter feeding sites may run into the tens of thousands. The Ring-bill has adapted thoroughly to civilization. Flocks are often seen resting in parking lots, scavenging scraps around fast-food restaurants, or swarming over landfills. Seriously depleted by human persecution during the late 19th century, they have made a strong comeback. Population in 1990 was estimated at 3 to 4 million and is probably still increasing. They have benefitted from the availability of food provided by garbage dumps and farming practices. High populations may have a negative impact on nesting Common Terns and other birds.
Habitat is in lakes, bays, coasts, piers, dumps, and plowed fields. They are associated with
water at all seasons, although they do much of their feeding on land. They favor fresh water as much as salt water, but are often common along the coast, especially at harbors and estuaries; rarely any distance offshore. They are common around cities, docks, farm fields, landfills, and other human-altered habitats.
Ring-billed gulls are omnivorous. Diet varies with location and season, but major items include insects, fish, earthworms, grain, rodents, and refuse. They forage in freshly plowed fields for grubs and earthworms. They are opportunistic with a wide variety of foraging behaviors while
walking, wading, swimming, or flying, and may steal food from other birds, often scavenging in garbage dumps and other places where food scraps may have been tossed out.
Ring-billed gulls breed in colonies, and are sometimes associated with California or Herring gulls. In courtship, both birds stretch upright and alternately face toward and away from each other; males feed females. Nest sites are on the ground near water in an area with sparse plant growth. Nests, built by both sexes, are a shallow cup of grasses, twigs, and moss.
After mating, females lay 2-4, sometimes 1-8, gray to olive, blotched with brown eggs. Clutches of more than 4 eggs result from more than one female. Sometimes two females form a "pair" and share nests. Incubation by both sexes in 23-28 days. Both parents bring food for their
young, and brood them while they are small. Young may wander out of nest by the 2nd day, but remain in the immediate area. Young are capable of flight in about 5 weeks after hatching, becoming independent 5-10 days later.
This very common competitive scavenger can be easily spotted in our great Tijuana Estuary and on our beautiful beaches. Just look for their ringed yellow bill. Until next week, happy birding!