I am looking for your opinion on some bird behaviour in our yard that we are finding quite amusing.  We have a large flock of ducks that we feed on our shoreline in the hopes of giving them a safe haven away from the hunters !!  There are about 50 ducks now and the flock has been joined a couple weeks ago by a lone Ring-billed Gull.  The gull eats the corn we spread right in the middle of the ducks and the ducks seem not to mind at all.  When it is done with the corn it comes up under our bird feeder and waits there patiently looking around for the Blue Jays to come to feed and drop a peanut or two or three onto the ground for him/her to snatch up !  The gull actually looks for the Blue Jays and makes its way over to under the feeder as soon as the jays arrive.
The gull seems to be in perfect health…..looks great, can fly and can swim.  But it never ventures far from the yard except to sit on the end of our raised dock and mostly it stays close to the ducks and the tidbits the Blue Jays drop to the ground.  It is the only gull we have seen on our end of the lake in a couple of weeks.  Not sure if this is “normal” behaviour or not but we quite enjoy watching the show.  Even if this isn’t unusual, it is new to us……and the good news is that the gull doesn’t make any noise at all…no squawking  !! Any insight or is this just an example of Mother Nature getting along ??  Nancy Cafik

NOTE: I forwarded Nancy’s question to a local naturalist, Barb Evett, who has first-hand experience with Ring-billed Gulls. Here is Barb’s response:

Hi Nancy,

I don’t know you but I like you already. Most people wouldn’t give a gull a second thought. I loved your story and observation – most people would not pick up on that behaviour. To put your mind at rest I believe your gull is well and enjoying itself. The intelligence of crows has been well documented…..I believe that many other bird species also share a degree of intelligence as well.

Your gull has found a source of food – your yard. I have a gull at camp who “found” my campsite 3 years ago and has been a regular ever since. During the summer when gulls abound he sits at my site, sometimes on my deck, waiting for the food to come out. If I go for a walk, “Stanley” trails behind me like a puppy dog knowing I will eventually get him something to eat. He has become the source of amusement with the other campers.

Stanley, the Ring-billed Gull - Barb Evett

Stanley, the Ring-billed Gull – Barb Evett

I noticed the gulls absent from our area of the lake at this time of year- but flocking in great numbers in farmers fields. My gull, however, comes back to the lake to sit on his favourite stump and watch my site. Within minutes of my arriving back at camp he flies in and waits for food. I love my gull.

I have noticed that gulls vocalize only to communicate with other gulls. My gull will only cry out to warn other gulls away from my site – otherwise he is silent.

So your gull knows you feed the ducks and he knows the Jays drop peanuts on the ground – smart cookie. You may find he becomes a regular visitor… and will warn off other gull intruders.

This time of year, around supper time, my gull flies off, I would assume, to join the other gulls in the plowed fields for the night. I imagine yours disappears overnight as well.

So your observation demonstrates a healthy (and happy) gull. He just has the inside on a great place to eat.

And thank you for providing the ducks with a safe haven. You sound like a great person!

Mother Nature has many tales to tell when we take the time to stop and observe! Right on, Nancy!


Barb Evett

Drew Monkman

I am a retired teacher, naturalist and writer with a love for all aspects of the natural world, especially as they relate to seasonal change.