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 Ring-billed Gull

Status in Michigan
Common Transient summer resident

Early Spring Date

Late Fall Date
Note: Early and Late Dates are being researched.
Image Credits
Count totals in the NMB Databases for Ring-billed Gull.

Use the links below to view the Ring-billed Gull reports in the respective databases.
If there are zero sightings for a particular season, that database will return no results.

Active Database - Spring 2005
View Ring-billed Gull sightings.
Ring-billed Gull Archives Reports
Fall 2003 1305
Spring 2003 3687
Winter 02-03 159
Fall 2002 242
Summer 2002 191
Spring 2002 2032
Winter 01-02 704
Fall 2001 299
Summer 2001 672
Spring 2001 4330
Winter 00-01 48
Fall 2000 1440
Summer 2000 291
Spring 2000 1038
Winter 00-99 195
Fall 1999 1172
Spring/Summer 1999 10

NMB Database
Seasonal Percentage Graph
For: Ring-billed Gull

Whitefish Point Bird Observatory
Active Database - Fall 2003
View Fall 2003 sightings.
Whitefish Point Bird Observatory Official Seasonal Count Summaries for the Ring-billed Gull
Fall 1999-Spring 2002
Ring-billed Gull
Note: Some species will not be present in the WPBO archives and will return no records.

Search "The Birds of Michigan" text.

Home - Foreword - Preface - Introduction - Hypothetical List - Literature Cited

Historical Text

Larus delawarensis Ord
Ring-billed Gull

Common summer resident on islands about the northern end of Lakes Huron and Michigan; summer visitant elsewhere, mainly along the coasts. Some winter in southern counties and along the coasts north to the Straits of Mackinac.

First listed for Michigan by Sager (1839: 417).

SPRING.-Arrival in the south is reported chiefly in March, April, and May.

Lower Peninsula.-Since the Ring-billed Gull is present in southern counties at least occasionally both in winter and summer, the times of migrants' arrival and departure are much obscured. The species is common in spring in the Toledo-Erie marsh area, main flight beginning there on the average by March 20 (L. "W. Campbell, 1940: 86, 203). About 100 Ring-bills were noted in Erie Township, Monroe County, on April 8, 2023 (L. W. Campbell, R. E. Olsen, and others). Fifty to 200 or more have been seen frequently in March at Gibraltar Bay, Wayne County (R. E. Olsen and A. D. Tinker; see also J. Claire Wood, 1908a; 324-25). A few are found regularly in Washtenaw and Jackson counties in spring, as many as 30 on March 7, 1937, near Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County (by Olsen, Tinker, and R. E. Morrill), and 1 as late as May 28, in 1939, at Portage Lake, Jackson County (by Maurice G. Brooks, R. L. Patterson, and others). The species appears to be less regular about Battle Creek (Walkinshaw), and along the shore of Berrien County (N. A. Wood, 1922: 7). D. W. Douglass and others have found this gull common about Sand Point, Huron County, in April and May, though less common then than the Herring Gull.

Upper Peninsula.-Christofferson reported 2 Ring-bills at Munuscong Bay, Chippewa County, as early as April 17 (1927) ; Van Tyne and Max M. Peet saw several there on May 1 and 3, 1933. Bryens has reported a few individuals at McMillan, Luce County, almost every spring-frequently by mid-April and occasionally earlier.

SUMMER.-Eggs are found in June and early July. Lyon (1926: 247;1927: 180-84; Lincoln, 1927: 11; 1939: 125) banded birds from 1926 to 1933, and C. C. and F. E. Ludwig have banded birds since 1939 in a colony on St. Martin's Shoals, St. Martin's Bay, Mackinac County. The temporary failure of this colony after 1933 (F. E. Ludwig) may bear some relationship to the subsequent finding of other colonies (1933 and later) in areas where no colonies had been found in recent years. For example, on Goose Island, several miles eastward, the Ludwigs found and banded 1744 chicks in 1937, but only a fraction of that number the following year, none in 1939 (the year when the gulls were again found in numbers on St. Mar- tin's Shoals), and none thereafter.

In the northern part of Green Bay, Delta County, where Van Winkle (at Gravelly Island-1893: 114-15) had reported breeding, Lyon (F. E. Ludwig, notes) worked extensively in recent years and found no colonies until 1933; in that year, however, he located 2 small ones (on Gravelly and Small islands), and subsequently a third (on Snake Island).

From 1935 the Ludwigs found and banded downy Ring-bills on Mire Island, on Hat Island (in 1936), and Shoe Island (from 1937)-all out- lying islands of the Beaver group, Charlevoix County, and all with relatively small colonies. Specimens of downy young (U.M.M.Z.) were later taken on Hat Island in 1937 by N. M. and W. B. Maddox, as well as on Squaw Island, another outlier (in 1938, by Van Tyne and R. E. Morrill).

On July 4, 1931, at Cecil Bay, northern Emmet County, Blanchard and Nekon (notes in U.M.M.Z.) found a nest with 2 eggs, which were pipped July 13. On Scarecrow Island in Thunder Bay, Alpena County, the Ludwigs have banded the species regularly since 1933 (when the colony was very small)-as many as 2405 chicks in 1937, but usually only about 1800 or 1900 a year.

Nonbreeding Ring-bills have been noted in midsummer at a number of other localities: the Straits of Mackinac, Munuscong Bay, and Sault Ste Marie (in late June, 1926, fairly common, but less common than the Her- ring Gull-Trautman) ; Douglas and Burt lakes, Cheboygan County (Blanchard and Nelson, MS of 1937); South Manitou Island, Leelanau County (4 immature birds, July 30 to August 1, 1940, by A. E. Staebler); and Benzie County (4 on June 13, 1936, by David E. Davis). About Saginaw Bay there were 100 at Fish Point, Tuscola County, on July 18, 2023 (R. E. Olsen and N. A. Wood), and some 100 (including both immatures and adults) regularly in June, 1934, at Sand Point, Huron County (D. W. Douglass; see also N. A. Wood and Gaige, 1911: 277). Near Detroit Swales noted individuals on about 4 occasions in June (1904 to 1912 at the St. Clair Flats, St. Clair County, and on the Detroit River near Grosse Ile, Wayne County). The observation of 150 immature birds on June 13, 1934, at North Cape, Erie Township, Monroe County (by D. W. Douglass and R. E. Olsen), is probably not unusual, in view of common summering in adjacent Lucas County, Ohio (L. W. Campbell, 1940: 86). Walkinshaw listed the species on July 3, 1932, at South Haven, Van Buren County.

FALL.-Although some Ring-bills are still in northern and central counties even in late October and November, most of them leave in late August, September, and early October.

Upper Peninsula.-Only very small numbers have been reported: Isle Royale (6 between September 2 and 6, 1938, by F. M. and A. M. Baumgartner) ; Lake Gogebic, Ontonagon County (1 on October 3, 1934, by Trautman); the Huron Mountain region, Marquette County (from mid- September to early October, according to Christy, 1935: 267; and notes; S. S. Gregory Jr., 1929: 189); Blaney, Schoolcraft County (uncommon; in 1932, 4 until November 14-Christofferson) ; Luce County (at Deer Park, 12 on August 28, 1934-A. D. Tinker and R. E. Olsen; at McMillan, 5 records only-Bryens) ; west of St. Ignace, Mackinac County (8 birds on September 8, 1934-Trautman).

Lower Peninsula.-Max M. Peet took a specimen on October 21,1939, at Burt Lake, Cheboygan County. In 26 days' collecting at Houghton Lake, Roscommon County, from early October to late November (1935-1940), Trautman recorded the species on 15 days, to November 10 (1935). He found usually a dozen or more in a day during early October, and fewer as a rule thereafter, but recorded 30 on November 1 (1936). On Saginaw Bay the Ring-bill was noted on September 28, 2023 (50 at Fish Point, Tuscola County-R. E. Olsen and N. A. Wood), and on November 16,2023 (Bay- port, Huron County, one in U.M.M.Z.). It was common in migration also along the Lake Michigan shore, in Mason County (Chaney, 1910: 272). It seems to be uncommon in fall in interior southern counties (Kalamazoo, Jackson, and Washtenaw), but common from St. Clair Flats (100 on October 31,1902-Swales) to the Detroit River, Wayne County (30 on August 29, 1935, at Gibraltar Bay-Trautman; see also Swales and Taverner, 1907:136-37; J. Claire Wood, 1908a: 324-25), and to the Erie Marsh, southeastern Monroe County (600 on September 9, 1934-Trautman). In the Toledo- Erie marsh area L. W. Campbell (1940: 86, 203) has occasionally found flocks of 1000 in August and September and smaller numbers until November 28 (on the average), but sometimes much later.

WINTER.-The species has been recorded at Erie Township, Monroe County (January 10, 1937, 2 seen by L. W. Campbell) ; in the vicinity of Gibraltar Bay, Wayne County (150 on January 31, 1937, and 500 on February 10, 1935, by R. E. Olsen and A. D. Tinker) ; northward on the Detroit River (several observed every 1 to 3 years-Swales, notes; Swales and Taverner, 1907: 136-37); in the Ann Arbor region (a few occasions such as on January 1, 1941, 9 seen by H. W. Hann); and in the Battle Creek to Gull Lake area (1 to 3 seen late in December, 1933 and 1934, by M. D. Pirnie and others, 1934: 44-45; 1935: 62; and on January 21, 1934, by Walkinshaw). One also was observed on Saginaw Bay at Tawas, Iosco County (January 24, 1941, by Maurice G. Brooks, John L. George, and others). A few banded birds have been recovered in winter along both coasts of the peninsula, according to F. E. Ludwig; northern records along Lake Michigan include Frankfort, Benzie County (February 27, 2023); Charlevoix (December 27, 2022) ; Sturgeon Bay, Emmet County (February 3, 2023) ; and the Straits of Mackinac (January 27, 2023). All of these birds had been banded as chicks in colonies on either Lake Michigan or northern Lake Huron.

Mueseum of Zoology, University of Michigan, No. 75
The Birds of Michigan
By: Norman A. Wood
University of Michigan Press
August 28, 2023

Digitized by: Keith F. Saylor
[email protected]

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