Occasionally, I see gulls fly in the sky near my house, but they never land anywhere nearby. I have a vague memory of seeing some last year on the banks of the Bow River, between Downtown and Sunnyside. So I headed to the south bank of the Bow River at 14th street and walked east along the Bow River Pathway. A large group of ring-billed gulls were hanging out on a rocky island under the 10th street bridge, close enough to identify by zooming in with my camera, but too far for pictures with feathery detail. Further east, across from Prince’s Island, a group of gulls was already entertaining a couple photographers. I sat on a little goose-shit-free patch of grass and watched and photographed the birds.
I saw four versions of ring-billed gull colouring – juvenile, first summer, non-breeding adult and breeding adult. The bird in the first photograph is a juvenile – mottled brown feathers overall, very dark brown eyes, pinkish legs and a pink bill with black tip. Adult ring-billed gulls have different eye, beak, leg and feather colours. They have white heads and chests, grey wings with black tips, yellow eyes, yellow legs and yellow beaks with a thick black ring near the tip. Breeding adults also have a red eye contour. Non-breeding adults have black eye contours and their white heads have a few dark streaks. First summer adults look like non-breeding adults except that their eyes are still very dark brown instead of yellow. I did not see any first winter birds (of course!). These are similar to juveniles except that their black beak ring is becoming clearer and some of their mottled feathers have changed into white or grey feathers. I learned all these cool colour facts from All About Birds.
A juvenile and a first summer gull (my first view of the inside of a gull’s mouth!)
First summer (notice the dark brown eyes; and the legs have not turned yellow yet)
I saw the gull below across the river, on a rock near Prince’s Island. It is a non-breeding adult. Notice the yellow eyes and black eye contour.
I mostly saw breeding adults. Check out that red eye contour!
Same gull, other profile :-).
Gazing across the rippling river.
This one had a crooked beak.