Ring-billed Gulls

     Earlier this month, someone spread popcorn on the parking lot at the Laurel Plaza shopping center on Fort Meade Road. When a flock of ring-billed gulls started feeding, they were targeted by a driver who managed to kill ten birds. This act of animal cruelty was reported nationwide along with a $5,000 reward for information.

     Gulls are seen as a nuisance to some, but they’re part of our Chesapeake watershed ecosystem.

     There are many gull species we associate with saltwater coastlines but ring-billed gulls are found just as often in the middle of the country. In the 1800s their populations dropped along the coast but rebounded by the 1960s because of landfills and open large farming methods. They are the most common bird at open landfills. The gulls can find food in almost any area of the U.S., from Alaska to the Florida Keys. 

     People that enjoy watching birds get a little tense when they hear a bird called a “seagull” because there are so many different types of gulls. I have to admit that figuring out the species of a young gull can be really difficult. Herring and laughing gulls are very common and look similar.  

     Ring-billed gulls are medium-sized birds with a four-foot wingspan and a dark ring on a yellowish bill. Their backs and top wing feathers are gray and, during mating season, bluish gray. These social birds communicate to each other loudly. That is how they spread the word to flock around your French fries. 

     The gulls nest on the ground and rarely in trees. The clutch of three to four eggs hatch in about 21 days and the young leave the nest after a week. Both parents nurture chicks for about two years, then they reach maturity. Ring-billed gulls have an estimated life span of five to 10 years, although there has been one tagged bird that lived over 23 years. 

     Ring-billed gulls can be annoying when they target your food or soil your car and furniture. Unless you want them around, do not feed them. They should be shooed away and not run over. 

If you have any information about the gulls killed at the Laurel Plaza contact [email protected]