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May 31, 2014 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: Herring Gull

Last Saturday I spent the morning at the river where I monitor birds searching for an elusive Snowy Egret, an uncommon migrant, that was reported in the area. There really is a bird hotline like the one mentioned in the The Big Year, a movie about three competitive bird watchers, which is how I find out about rare birds.

While I was scanning the river for the egret, a gull swooped past me. It looked slightly different than the very common Ring-billed Gull that I usually see. A closer look with the binoculars revealed a Herring Gull. The bird flew past me a second time and I was able to get a couple of photos.

Curious Herring Gull

Herring Gull

In flight the Herring Gull and the Ring-billed Gull look similar, especially if they are high in the sky. The Herring Gull is slightly larger, has a red dot on its beak and pink legs. The Ring-billed Gull has a black ring on its beak and yellow-green legs.

Close-up – red dot on beak


Although this seems like just another gull, this is a bird I don’t see very often inland, along the river. They prefer coastal areas and the Great Lakes, and are very common along the north Atlantic Coast. They are far less common along the west coast where you are more likely to see the similar-looking California Gull. They are short to medium-distance migrants and some will move inland across Canada and Alaska to breed.


Saturday Snapshot was originated by Alyce at At Home With Books. It is now hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.

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Leave a Comment
  1. laurelrainsnow / May 31 2014 9:38 am

    That gull looks a little scary to me…(I’m still freaked out about the movie The Birds, even though it’s been years…LOL). But if I don’t imagine it swooping down at me, I can enjoy its regal bearing and beautiful shape. Thanks for sharing…and for visiting my blog.


    • Leslie / May 31 2014 10:07 am

      I think those were blackbirds in the movie – no need to fear gulls. 🙂 However, this bird did come back for a second pass. He (or she) even turned his head to get a look at me.


  2. Arti / May 31 2014 9:54 am

    Amazing shot! I’ve heard of the Herring Gull but have not seen one. Wonder if they come through here. Just curious, what’s your camera and lens?


    • Leslie / May 31 2014 10:27 am

      Cornell’s range map shows them across most of North America at various times of the year. You should be able to find them during migration.

      This was one of those times I got lucky with the camera. It’s an older Canon Rebel XSi with a 250mm 4-5.6 zoom lens. It was a sunny day and I already had it set on AI-Servo, center focus (which tracks focus on moving subjects), and ready for a shot of that Snowy Egret. That was perfect for tracking a bird in flight, especially one that was flying so low.


  3. Topazshell / May 31 2014 10:19 am

    The bird is beautiful.


  4. Kongo / May 31 2014 10:50 am

    Great inflight capture!


  5. Sean @ His and Her Hobbies / May 31 2014 12:59 pm

    I see gulls at work all the time. I thought they were all pretty much the same but will have to keep a closer eye for them now.

    Sean at His and Her Hobbies


  6. Suko / May 31 2014 2:07 pm

    These photos are AMAZING! Simply stunning!


  7. Louise / May 31 2014 6:27 pm

    Great shots Leslie, and it’s always nice to see something a bit unusual. I saw The Big Year a few months ago, and quite enjoyed it.


  8. irene / May 31 2014 7:13 pm

    The gull is very lovely, you did a great job photoing it.


  9. Ginny / Jun 1 2014 5:10 am

    What a great shot. He has got a bit of a mean look in his eye.


  10. Paulita / Jun 1 2014 8:30 am

    Pretty amazing the detail you were able to get. Here’s Mine


  11. Peggy@Peggy Ann's Post / Jun 1 2014 9:30 am

    We were just in Hilton Head Island South Carolina and we did not see one sea gull on the beach! I was amazed. But I could spend hours watching the pelicans!


  12. diane / Jun 1 2014 5:51 pm

    Looks so huge; what a shot


  13. jewel / Jun 9 2014 11:31 am

    I live in England, and used to live on the South coast, where you get lots of these birds. They can be quite aggressive and tourists were asked not to feed them, but in these photos you have shown how beautiful they can also be. Thanks for sharing.



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