This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the ring-billed gull.
We commonly refer to them as seagulls, and it seems odd to see them here, but many ring-billed gulls spend their lives inland without ever seeing the ocean. The ringbilled is the most common gull in North America, and the one you are most likely to see in Pagosa Springs.
The ring-billed is a medium-sized gull and in adult breeding plumage, has bluish-gray back and shoulders, and white head and body. Black wingtips are spotted with white. It is named for the black band which circles its short, yellow bill. These gulls do not acquire adult plumage for three years and juveniles show varying degrees of brown streaking.
These social birds are comfortable around humans and are seen looking for a dropped fry in parking lots, at landfills picking through our trash, on beaches and in agricultural fields. Their diet includes fish, insects, earthworms, rodents, grain and garbage. They are not above stealing from another bird.
Strong flyers, they engage in play by dropping sticks and catching them in midair. Here, they are seen at times on local lakes and commonly at Navajo Reservoir. Thanks to protections now in place under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, these gulls currently thrive. It is important to let elected officials know that you care about birds and do not want these protections weakened.
For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.