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Friday, 20 November 2020

Ring-billed Gull (Goéland à bec cerclé)

     It seems to me that gulls in general get a bad rap, and are less appealing to some birders than other species. They also seem to engender feelings of indifference at best, hostility at worst, from the wider public. Small, cute and colourful always seems to outweigh other factors, but that is a pretty shallow judgement when you think about it.
       Is this not a handsome bird?


      Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) is the most common gull in this area for most of the year at most locations. On a slow day of birding one can count on a few gulls to brighten up the day, wheeling overhead or following a farm tractor eagerly feeding on the exposed invertebrate prey, all the while filling the air with their cries.
     To share your day with a gull is a fine thing.
     These juveniles seem content to stay together while learning how to cope with life; discovering in fact what it means to be a gull.



      They have much to learn, and sadly, as is true for most species, many will not make it. Hazards are legion for these young birds from foxes on the ground, to falcons in the air, to witless humans with guns.


     Those that survive the various perils they face will morph into handsome adults.


     I hear the common pejorative terms for gulls more often than I care to, and it is time someone came up with something more creative than shithawk, sometimes drawn out to shitehawk, or aerial rat. 
     And this from the species that has polluted and despoiled the Earth and its oceans beyond recognition.
     There is more than a little irony that we label gulls aerial rats when they are feeding on the very trash that we have dumped in every corner of the planet. 
Yesterday, I parked my car on Beaver Creek Road to check out the birds on Laurel Creek reservoir, and the pull off at the side of the road was littered with fast food containers, both styrofoam and plastic, plastic drink cups, plastic straws and plastic bags. And we call gulls aerial rats? And then, by the way, tossed over the culvert into the water, our source of drinking water, was an area rug (I would estimate 9' x 12') and a scooter. Yup, we really have the right to criticize other species!
     Interestingly, I recently read a study that indicated that while gulls may eat our discarded French fries and doughy white bread, they feed their offspring only nutritious food that the young need to develop correctly. Humans who eat junk food exercise no such discrimination and feed their growing children the same inadequate diet. The rise in obesity in North America is more than alarming, with grossly overweight people seriously lacking in basic nutrition.
     This adult bird in winter plumage looks like it has eaten well.


     And this individual in first winter plumage has a healthy demeanour to it.


     Even on the coldest winter's day, when we are shivering and pulling our toques down over our ears, and wishing we had worn an extra layer of clothing, the gulls are unfazed by it all, and brighten up the chilling bite of an Ontario winter.



     In every phase of its plumage a Ring-billed Gull is a handsome bird.




      In fact to my eye, it is uncommonly beautiful and merits the close attention of everyone. Perhaps if you take the time to understand a little more of its lifestyle you may come to appreciate it - who knows even learn to love it as much as I do. 
     I am listing below the books on my shelves devoted exclusively to gulls (not including books on seabirds, field guides etc) in the hope that something might appeal to you and stimulate a desire to learn more about this wonderful bird we all share. It would be a great way to spend your Covid confinement!

Gulls Simplified, Pete Dunne and Kevin T. Karlson, Princeton University Press (2019)

Gulls, A Guide to Identification, P. J. Grant, Academic Press (1997)

Gulls of the Americas, Steve N. G. Howell, Jon Dunn, Houghton Mifflin Company (2007)

Gulls of the World, Klaus Malling Olsen, Princeton University Press (2018)

Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America, Klaus Malling Olsen and Hans Larssson, Christopher Helm London (2003)

 

    

63 comments:

  1. I always enjoy watching the gulls flying over the Rhine and following the tractors when they're ploughing. They are graceful and artistic flyers. As you say, they don't spread the garbage everywhere, people do. And you are right about how badly people feed themselves and their families. Have a great day, take care, hugs to you and Miriam, Valerie

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  2. As you sadly undervalued. And I agree with your comments about our own superior (I wish) species too.
    And don't get me started on those who revile (and hunt and kill) introduced species as well. Who introduced them? And why?

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  3. We have a few gulls here too, and I see them in the spring. They are not here in my garden, but they are near the river. Beautiful photos!

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  4. Seagulls have become urban pigeons. In the areas of large shopping centers, they subscribed to receive food from passers-by.

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  5. Yes, they are handsome birds, and I appreciate their feeding their offspring nutritious food.

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  6. Ici il y'a parfois des goélands leucophées.
    Je trouve cet oiseau très joli avec ses petites pattes :D
    Bon weekend

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  7. As you well know, David, I'm one of those guilty of largely neglecting gulls, although I have no objection to them. I guess the main reason for my indifference is my inadequacy when it comes to identification. Having said that, they must be one of the hardest bird families to ID as they take so long to reach their mature plumage. I have, however, much enjoyed this account of the Ring-billed Gull - and it's not too difficult to ID as an adult!

    I'm in total sympathy with you over the state of the human race. The Covid pandemic seems to have brought out the best in some people, but the worst in so many others.

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    1. They are a challenge to be sure, Richard, but perhaps that is part of the attraction.

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  8. Hari OM
    Well, you know I'm on the bandwagon with you, David, I simply adore gulls of all shapes and shades!!! Thanks for focusing on the ring-billed, as it is not one I am likely to see in person. YAM xx

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    1. Then you just have to pay us a visit and I will show it to you!

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    2. Hari OM
      oh for those easy-breezy days of long-distance travel... Yxx

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  9. Hi David,
    Some superb gull images, I totally agree with your naming, some local photographers visit the landfill sites so as to get images of the different gulls visiting, I'll stick to the reservoirs, sweeter smelling.
    You both stay safe and well, not long to wait for the vaccine.
    John

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  10. There is something appealing about having sea gulls swoop and call above your head whilst you wander besides the sea, but I would never eat or carry any food knowing what scavenges they are. However, I was interested to learn that they do not feed junk food to their youngsters.

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    1. They will snatch food right from your hand, but they will then go out to find fish, molluscs etc to take back to their young. Humans, on the other hand, tend to feed their kids the same junk they eat themselves.

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  11. You make a good case for the Ring-billed! They are the single most common bird I see out our windows.

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    1. And great to have them around, huh? There will probably be some Herring Gulls there too.

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  12. Lovely photos. Do you suppose this is the breed that dive at me in the supermarket parking lot to grab the bunch of grapes from the bag. Or another breed of gull. I really don't know.

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    1. It just might be this species. They are to say the least opportunistic feeders!

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  13. I'm most familiar with our laughing gull, but I just read on the Houston Audubon site that these ring-billed gulls are with us from now until spring. I wonder if they might be the species that hangs around my work locations. I'll have to take my camera with me next week and see who's sitting on the pilings near to me!

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  14. Gulls of all kinds are such handsome birds. Watching them fly high and dropping a shell onto the beach to break it open is an amazing sight. They clean up all the fish debris that floats ashore and keep our beaches clean. If humans did not drop their waste everywhere then I'm sure these birds would not have such a bad reputation.

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  15. Beautiful clear photos and a pleasure to see.

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  16. Buenos días amigo David. Realmente como bien dices las gaviotas son bellas, tienen un plumaje y una silueta encantadora, no llego a comprender el motivo de ese nombre "rata aérea" muchos humanos deberían pensarlo antes de llamarles por ese nombre, como tu bien dice nuestro planeta está lleno de "basura humana". Las fotos como siempre son preciosas.
    Espero estés algo mejor de la vista.
    Recibe un afectuoso abrazo de tu amigo y compadre Juan y sobre todo cuidaros del maldito COVID19.

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  17. It’s true, they are quite handsome if you have a good look.

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  18. Hello, David

    Great post on the Ring-billed Gull. They are beautiful birds, I love to see and hear the gulls when I am at the shore. I see different gull sometimes, inland on the parking lots and lakes too. Great series of photos. Thank you for linking up and sharing your post! Take care,enjoy your day! Have a happy weekend! PS, thanks so much for leaving me a comment.

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  19. No son de mis aves favoritas, pero también me gustan y sabes que tengo bastantes fotografías de ellas. Tus fotografías están preciosas. Un abrazo.

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  20. Hi David.

    I like the seagulls.
    They often have a nice beak.
    You took beautiful pictures.

    Greetings from Patricia.

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  21. Hi David,
    I love this post.
    You cann't blame animals for trying to find food the easy way.
    Seagulls are the big attraction when going to the shore; and certainly when taking the ferry to one of the islands in the Northern part.

    Best regards, Corrie

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    1. You are right, Corrie. What would a ferry ride be without gulls to accompany you?

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  22. Hi David, in the Netherlands we really have a lot of seagulls. In really all shapes and sizes :-) I don't always like to photograph seagulls and that may be because I see them every day, on my roof and during my walks or wherever I go.
    You have made a very nice and nice series of it and your text is also very plausible and clear about these gulls ;-)
    I hope you are still safe.
    A big hug from me,
    Helma

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  23. A handsome bird indeed. In their defense, some parents who feed their children on junk food live in areas where there are more fast food outlets than there are grocery stores with fresh produce. In this country we call them food deserts.

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  24. Hi David, beautiful gulls the Larus delawarensis, I never saw them. Beautiful photos. Do you have already snow in Ontario ? Greetings Caroline

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    1. Hi Caroline: There is snow in the northwest part of the province, but none yet where I live. Yesterday it was fifteen degrees here!

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  25. I love gulls. They are smart and not just about feeding their offspring only nutritious food (which I didn’t know!). We have watched them at the beach observing people eatI got chips and crackers and when the people walked away leaving the box on the chair, rush in, knock the box to the sand, and eat the contents. Very clever I think.

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  26. Vaya vistas como las presentas se ven hermosas amigo. Pero he tenido más de un problemilla con ellas. Se acercan veloces a quitarte la comida. Gran reportaje y fantásticas fotos.
    La próxima vez que las vea las miraré con más cariño :))
    Buen fin de semana David. Cuidaros.
    Un abrazo.

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    1. You know, Laura, it is amazing that many people feed them deliberately, and are then surprised when they snatch the sandwich from your hand!

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  27. This was a great post. Well written, and you made many good points. When I was first starting to try to take bird photographs, usually the only ones I could get were of Seagulls, and I was quite happy to do so. I didn't know people had bad names for them. And you rightly called humankind out for it: we are the ones polluting this planet, NOT ANY of the animals! I think you and I both think alike, based on what you wrote here.

    When I stop at the reservoir to take photos, I see trash thrown out like you did. Fast food bags, empty soda drink containers, alcohol bottles, etc. That is the water we drink! And yet people litter right on the edge of it! And for all I know, they throw stuff into the actual water, too! (angry face) Humankind is the last species on this planet that should be calling out ANY other species as "aerial rat" (or any other implication of the animal doing "droppings" onto the planet). Nature had checks and balances until humankind came along. (angry face)

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  28. Great post, I cannot remember the last gull I saw, i would ne happy to see one, any kind at present. We have not been back to the UK for 3 years and I always see them when we visit there. I have to say I find ID difficult though and they all appear to be different in winter when we visit!

    Humans have a lot to answer for. We have lived here now for 15 years and I saw my first Mistle Thrush today - I gather they are a delicacy here in France though thankfully I have never spotted them on a menu!

    Keep safe Diane

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    1. I knew about Ortolan Bunting, but not Mistle Thrush.

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    2. Hi David,
      Gulls don't get my full attention every time I see them. But when I am near the beach it may be different. It depends upon my mood whether I pay attention to them or not. But it changes rapidly when a less common kind shows up. A ring-billed gull would certainly deserve my attention.
      Greetings, Kees

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  29. Great pictures. The juveniles are a delight!

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  30. In my opinion, all species of gulls are a gift!! Love your photos and appreciated (very much) your commentary!! I enjoyed my visit here, and give thanks to you for sharing this week at IRBB.

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  31. The Silver Gull is most commonly seen on our beaches.
    I love to watch their antics.

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    1. And Silver Gulls are very handsome, Helen. I really hope I get to keep them company at least one more time.

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  32. Hola, David. Aquí en España, sobre todo entre los pescadores, las gaviotas no gozan de buena fama, porque interfieren mucho en sus labores marineras, por lo demás, ojalá que nunca desaparezcan estas aves porque, eso sería señal de que algo estamos haciendo mal los seres humanos, y de que el medio ambiente corre peligro.
    Tu entrada es muy bonita por su interesante texto, y por las excelentes imágenes que lo acompañan.
    Un cordial saludo.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Manuel. It never ceases to amaze me that fishermen throughout the world who are consistently overfishing their own resource constantly complain about other creatures eating to survive. Un abrazo desde Ontario.

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  33. Nice to see all these differences David.
    You have put them nicely in the picture.
    Greetings Tinie

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  34. Much the same situation applies here as well, though without the unpleasant names as far as I know. I remember trips to the seaside when I was a child and being mesmerised by the effortless flight of the gulls. I also recall the wonder of seeing them far inland following the plough. But as I grew up I gradually absorbed the attitudes of unenlightened people towards these fine birds. I've gradually learned to admire them once more and now all I have against them is the difficulty in sorting out the immature ones amongst them. Oh, and the one who knocked my fish and chips out of my hand and into the harbour at Wells was also briefly on my blacklist!

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    1. I think people have fed them for so long they zero in of food in your hand that a heat-seeking missile. But I would be a tad miffed too to lose my fish and chips!

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    2. I have no idea what I did with that first sentence, but it should read ..... they zero in on food in your hand like a heat-seeking missile.

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  35. Love these creatures which provide a soundtrack for my life on eastern Canadian islands.

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    1. And they will even be there for you in the dead of winter, Marie.

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  36. Great photos!
    Since I live inland instead of near the coast, Gulls are a special sighting for me. Ring-billed Gulls sometimes follow our larger rivers into the continent.
    Have a wonderful day!

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  37. Hi David - I guess living on a small piece of the planet as we do here ... we've outgrown the gulls - and they've no where to go ... except where they can find food - beach fronts, towns, gardens and a friend's lunch at the hotel, when we went up in the summer! Talk about speed of opportunity!!

    When my Ma lived in Newlyn - the Cornish fishing harbour - the gulls' nesting created havoc on rooves ... so I do understand what you're saying - nature is extraordinary and should be allowed to live with us ... but you say we are the vandals ... but ... !!

    Actually that's one thing that's worse ... people dropping litter ... thankfully the council is keeping the street cleaners on ... still as you say - they are exquisite birds if they didn't pinch lunch off Paula's plate! Take care - Hilary

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  38. Es muy interesante saber de esta guía, porque vale la pena ir conociendo la cantidad de especies de gaviotas que existen. Unas fotos preciosas!!
    Muchos besos.

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  39. Outstanding essay, David!

    Ring-billed Gulls spend the winter with us and make a wonderful addition to our avian diversity. What a pleasure to observe their aerobatics and hunting skills!

    I simply can't imagine a visit to lake or sea without hearing the cries of gulls across the skies.

    Gulls of the Americas has been a reliable reference on my shelf for quite awhile and I've found it to be invaluable.

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  40. They are beautiful birds.

    All the best Jan

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  41. I grew up in a small town with a lake nearby, and we always saw seagulls at the garbage dump or the grocery store parking lot eating what humans carelessly left behind. Of course their real home was the lake area, but I never ever heard anything bad said about them back then. I'm wondering when all that began to change, or maybe it's always been that way in bigger communities. I don't see seagulls here that much, but all the crude terminology you stated as being used against seagulls, I've heard continually being used to describe squirrels. People are deliberately cruel to them and think it's funny. I even worked at a state park where the ranger always called then rats, deliberately ran over them, then hung their carcasses over the tail gate. He was slapped on the hand when I objected, but otherwise no one cared. Just sad the discrimination that goes on against some species while others are adored. I don't remember ever seeing young seagulls, and they are quite beautiful in their coloring.

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  42. You don't have to convince me on gulls! They are my summer bird and I love watching them every day up north! Beautiful photos here!

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  43. Hello David
    Always worth a shot for me, especially because I live here far from the water, I always look forward to seagulls on the beach or coast
    Greetings Frank

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  44. I don't know much about seagulls. I do not distinguish them well. Maybe because there are only two in my area and that's enough. Thanks to you I met another one.

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