GALLIPOLIS — A familiar but seasonal winged guest has returned to the Ohio Valley for the winter.
Ring-bill Gulls travel south every year around the winter season and are common along the river and other major waterways inland during their nesting months. Many in the community see these birds, which are strikingly similar in appearance to seagulls which are normally associated with coastal regions.
Alex Eberts, a 2016 Zoology graduate from The Ohio State University has been an avid birdwatcher his entire life. He currently is the Southeast Regional Director and sits on the board of directors for the Ohio Ornithological Society.
“In regards to their presence around the river, it actually isn’t all that surprising. Ring-billed Gulls are actually the species of gull most likely to be encountered away from the coast, with most of their population nesting inland near large sources of freshwater like the Great Lakes, which is at the southern extreme of their breeding range in the Canada interior,” said Eberts.
He explained that in the Ohio Valley area, there are two species that people are likely to see. One of them being the Ring-billed Gull and the other being the Herring Gull.
“The most likely gull to be found inland in Ohio is the Ring-billed Gull, with their larger cousin the Herring Gull being a close second, though their numbers are significantly smaller than Ring-bills,” said Eberts.
He explained that gulls are fairly clever birds and will take advantage of the opportunities available to them; including man made structures and food sources. In Gallipolis, they are well known to be in the East End near restaurants and large parking lots.
“Gulls, not actually called ‘seagulls,’ there is no such thing, are opportunistic birds, meaning they are relatively adaptable to their surroundings and able to take advantage of many scenarios in order to survive,” said Eberts. “They will readily take advantage of other food sources such as landfills and parking lots where people throw out food. They have quickly learned to associate people with an easy food source due to how many people just throw out what’s left of their fast food combo in the parking lot or purposely throw out bread (which is not healthy for any birds to be fed) to feed geese and ducks.”
Gulls will live and nest on rooftops and other flat structures, further taking advantage on humans. According to Eberts, gulls will migrate south during the winter to both coasts and southern regions of the country, but are found around the Great Lakes year-round. He explained that colder weather will drive the birds father south, particularly if Lake Erie freezes.
“In terms of southern Ohio, yes their presence is temporary and seasonal. November through about March or April is a good approximate window,” said Eberts.
Eberts has significant experience with birds, having completed an Ohio Big year, spotting more than 300 different species of birds in Ohio in a single year. In his life he has records of spotting 517 species in the United States. To learn more about bird watching in Ohio, visit ohiobirds.org.
Reach Morgan McKinniss at 740-446-2342.