South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Ring-billed Gull

Larus delawarensis

Length: 18 - 19 inches Wingspan: 48 inches Seasonality: All Seasons
ID Keys: Yellow bill with black ring, yellow legs and feet, pale eyes

Ring-billed Gull - Larus delawarensisThe Ring-billed Gull is probably the most common gull found in the state. Adapted well to living with humans, it can often be found sitting in parking lots or scavenging at landfills.  The yellow legs and overall size help to distinguish the species from other similarly plumaged gulls found in the state, as does the characteristic black ring around the bill seen in mature birds (such as in the photo to the right).

Habitat: Usually found near lakes, marshes, and large rivers, although they will feed in a wide variety of habitats, including dryland habitats.

Diet: Omnivorous.  Wide variety depending on circumstances.  Includes fish, insects, small mammals, garbage, and grain.  Can be seen in freshly plowed fields foraging for earthworms and grubs. 

Behavior: Very sociable birds, with large groupings often seen in all seasons.  Individual behavior often depends upon local foraging conditions and prey.

Nesting: Mid-May through June.  Ring-billed Gulls are colonial nesters, sometimes mixing nesting colonies with other Gull species.  The nest itself is a shallow saucer of grasses, wetland vegetation, twigs, moss, and other material, placed on the ground near the water's edge.  The female usually lays 2 to 4 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them.  When the eggs hatch, both parents help feed the young.  The young learn to fly after about 5 weeks, and leave the parents soon after.

Breeding Map: Breeding bird survey map

Song: High-pitched repeated kiyak.  Call is a sharp ky-ow. 

Migration: Breeds in a scattered locations across Canada and the northern half of the United States.  In winter, found primarily south of Canada and along the coastlines, with populations possibly occurring wherever open water exists.

Similar Species: California Gull, Herring Gull. Mew Gull See Identification Tips.

Status: Has been increasing in number, thanks to its ability to live with humans. They are common in many areas, and are found over a very wide geographic area.  The IUCN lists the Ring-billed Gull as a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Ring-billed Gull

2)  Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Ring-billed Gull

3) Ring-billed Gull

Photo Information: July 18th, 2004 - Below Oahe Dam near Pierre, South Dakota - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Ring-billed Gull photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Ring-billed Gull - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Very common migrant throughout the state.  In summer, breeding populations can be found in the northeastern part of the state, and locally along the Missouri River.  In winter, may be found wherever open water exists.