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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Ring-billed Gull -- Larus delawarensis

RANGE: Breeds in the West from southern interior British Columbia and northeastern Alberta to north-central Manitoba south to northeastern California, south-central Colorado and northeastern South Dakota; in the East from north-central Ontario to southern Labrador south to eastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois across to central New Hampshire and New Brunswick. Winters along the Pacific Coast from southern British Columbia south to Mexico; in the interior from the Great Lakes to Mexico and the Gulf Coast; and along the Atlantic Coast from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Greater Antilles.

STATUS: Common.

HABITAT: From boreal regions to temperate prairies, inhabits small to moderately sized rocky islands and occasionally peninsulas in large freshwater lakes, rivers, or ponds (a few colonies are on oceanic islands or coasts). Usually avoids densely settled areas. Outside the breeding season, frequents harbors, refuse dumps, sewage outlets, reservoirs, lakes, ponds, streams, coastal bays, estuaries, beaches, and mudflats. Roosts on exposed sandbars and islands.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Islands and peninsulas covered with low vegetation 6 to 54 inches high.

NEST: Frequently nests in mixed colonies with other Laridae, including herring and California gulls. Usually nests on the ground in flat, elevated, sparsely vegetated areas, but sometimes in low trees.

FOOD: Forages in plowed fields, pastures, tidal flats in salt marshes, along the shore, along beaches, and in shallow waters. During the breeding season, feeds extensively on insects, grains, and small fishes. Also eats small rodents, earthworms, and refuse.

REFERENCES: Clapp et al. 1983, Cramp and Simmons 1983, Jarvis and Southern 1976, Vermeer 1970.

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