Bird Database

Ring-billed Gull

(Larus delawarensis)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Short distance




Pollution, Disease

Conservation Actions

None identified

Ring-billed Gull

(Larus delawarensis)

If you see a “seagull” away from the ocean in New Hampshire, it’s most likely a Ring-billed Gull. Although the larger Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls used to occur more frequently inland, this is no longer the case, leaving the Ring-billed as the default species at freshwater lakes, sewage ponds, and shopping plazas. Also unlike these other species, it is not known to nest in New Hampshire. Ring-billed Gulls breed in large colonies on lakes across the northern United States and southern Canada, with small numbers occasionally as close as the Maine side of Lake Umbagog. The nearest large colonies are on Lake Champlain and along the St. Lawrence River.

Although they do not breed here, Ring-billed Gulls are ubiquitous in the summer across most of the state. Many of these birds are young ones, since the species doesn’t breed until three years of age, but there are also plenty of adults. These are presumably birds that either didn’t breed or which failed earlier in the season, in both cases freeing them up to wander around New England. They congregate wherever there’s food to be found and are clearly not averse to scavenging. As winter sets in they gradually move south and towards the coast, although there are always a few remaining in larger urban areas with milder climates and abundant food.

Gulls are sometimes a challenge to identify, and this is not the place for a detailed discussion of their plumages. That said, adult Ring-billed Gulls are easily told from the similar Herring Gull through a combination of smaller size, yellow (vs. pink) legs, and the black ring on their bill. Be aware that younger Herring Gulls might have a black smudge and young Ring-bills have pink or gray legs. At all times, Ring-bills also have a “softer” look to their face resulting from a rounder head and smaller bill. Herring gulls tend to look fiercer, and indeed they are, since the larger species will readily chase the smaller away from whatever free food they encounter.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Ring-billed Gull
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count