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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, as well as in more natural habitats in around aquatic areas.  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).


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


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. 


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


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.


Ring-billed Gulls have multiple vocalizations, and are generally more vocal in and around nesting colonies. This includes a high-pitched repeated kiyak or a a sharp ky-ow call.


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.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Ring-billed Gull sightings

Similar Species:

 Can be confused with a number of other Larus gull species. In South Dakota, they're most likely to be confused with the California Gull or Herring Gull.  T.  Click here for a page with tips on how to differentiate a number of different species of gulls.  General identification tips for (adult plumage) Ring-billed Gulls are as follows:


Ring-billed Gull populations have been increasing in number, thanks to their adaptability, and to live in altered environments or even in environments dominated by a human presence. 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:

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.

Audio File Credits:

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 and in other seasons, may be found wherever open water exists.

Additional Ring-billed Gull Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Ring-billed Gull 1 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 2 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 3 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 4 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 5 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 6 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 7 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 8 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 9 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 10 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 11 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 12 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 13 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 14 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 15 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 16 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 17 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 18 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 19 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 20 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 21 - Larus delawarensisRing-billed Gull 22 - Larus delawarensis