Breeding Bird Atlas 2 Additional Accounts


Ring-billed Gull

Larus delawarensis

William Bourn Oliver Peabody detailed the life of the “Common Gull” in the nineteenth century for the Massachusetts State Legislature, stating that the Larus zonorhyncus was at that time “quite abundant on our coast” (Peabody 1839). Hunted extensively from the 1840s until the beginning of the twentieth century for their feathers, disturbed at their nest sites for eggs, and generally displaced by development of their breeding areas, Ring-billed Gulls eventually became an ornithological footnote in Massachusetts. In 1925, Edward Howe Forbush boldly stated that the species, which was described by Audubon as the “Common American Gull” was no longer the common gull of New England. It was the Migratory Birds Convention Act of 1917 that helped save this species, and since that time it has become one of Massachusetts’ most common gull species, and is close to regaining its mantle as America’s “Common Gull.” Although this species is indeed commonly seen in parking lots and along the coast throughout the Bay State, especially in winter, it had not made the leap to breeding in Massachusetts as of Atlas 1. A thriving colony at Lake Champlain in nearby Vermont suggested that a first Massachusetts breeding attempt might not be long in coming, however. Alas, it was not to be. There were no documented nesting attempts by Ring-billed Gulls during Atlas 2, although they are a fairly common summer “loafing” gull both inland and along the coast.