Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Birds in flight: The Ring-billed Gulls of White Rock Lake

If you visited White Rock Lake, Dallas in winter, you will no doubt have witnessed the raucous behavior of the ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) in and around Sunset Bay. These noisy, opportunistic birds make their presence known and are often seen taking food from less fortunate waterfowl.

All of the "birds in flight" images below were taken at Sunset Bay, White Rock Lake. 

Ring-billed gull at Sunset Bay, White Rock Lake, Dallas, Texas
A soaring ring-billed gull on the lookout for some food

If you visit White Rock Lake now you will notice that Sunset Bay is a lot quieter. The gulls have gone. Ring-billed gulls are migratory and some of them spend their winters at White Rock Lake in east Dallas, Texas.

Larus delawarensis in flight over Sunset Bay, White Rock Lake, Dallas, TX
 Ring-billed gulls migrate and spend the winter at White Rock Lake

Ring-billed gulls are easily identified from the black ring near the tip of its yellow, short bill, as well as its white head and gray wings. Its legs and feet are yellow. The eyes are yellow with red rims.

Birds in flight over Sunset Bay, White Rock Lake, Dallas, Texas
 Ring-billed gulls they were hunted for their plumage
 
Ring-billed gulls breed near lakes, rivers or the coast in Canada and the northern United States.

Larus delawarensis in flight over Sunset Bay, White Rock Lake, Dallas, TX
Larus delawarensis in flight over Sunset Bay

The gulls are pretty birds and in the late 19th century, they were hunted for their plumage.

Ring-billed gulls flying across Sunset Bay, White Rock Lake, Dallas, Texas
Ring-billed gulls flying across Sunset Bay

Ring-billed gulls nest from mid-May through June and they return to their nesting site well before it is time to nest in order to establish its territory.

A Ring-billed gull in flight flying across Sunset Bay, White Rock Lake, Dallas, Texas
The black ring at the tip of the gull's beak is clearly visible

Ring-billed gulls takes three years to reach its breeding plumage.

Ring-billed gulls foraging for food at Sunset Bay, White Rock Lake, Dallas, Texas
Ring-billed gulls foraging for food at Sunset Bay

Texas is known for its clear, blue skies in winter.

A ring-billed gull - Larus delawarensis - hovering over Sunset Bay at White Rock Lake, Dallas, TX
The gulls nest from mid-May through June

Although the gulls often visit Sunset Bay to forage for food, they love to spend a lot of their day sitting in the shallow water below the spillway, waiting for morsels that have washed over the spillway wall.

Ring-billed gulls in flight over Sunset Bay, White Rock Lake, Dallas, Texas
Ring-billed gulls in flight

Ring-billed gulls nest from mid-May through June and they return to their nesting site well before it is time to nest in order to establish its territory.

And that’s why Sunset Bay is a lot quieter this time of year.

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