Brilliant Bandings & Superb Sightings: Ring-billed Gull in Long Island

Release Date:

A color-marked Ring-billed Gull has second sighting in a Long Island village.

A Ring-billed gull standing on pavement with a metal band on its right leg and a blue color band with "67H" on it's right leg

A Ring-billed Gull standing on pavement with a metal band on its right leg and a blue color band with "67H" on it's right leg. (Credit: John Heidecker. Limited Use by USGS only)

The Ring-billed Gull pictured with the blue, plastic, leg band 67H received this color-marker in addition to a standard, metal federal band issued by the Bird Banding Laboratory at USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, in late 2013 in Revere, Massachusetts. At the time, she was estimated to be at least 3 years old. Since her banding, 67H has been sighted twice in Patchogue, a village on the south shore of Long Island, New York. 67H was sighted once in early 2017 and again in early 2019.

Given that these birds generally migrate great distances every year, this might seem like a feat for her to be found in the same location two years later. However, many migratory birds, including Ring-billed Gulls, are known to show site fidelity, which is the tendency to return to known or previously visited locations.

67H was photographed in her non-breeding plumage which consists of brown striping on the head combined with dark coloration around the eye and in the corners of the mouth, or gape as it is termed for birds. Ring-billed Gulls can be distinguished from other gull species by, their namesake, the black band that wraps around their bills, as this marking is present year-round.

Colored leg bands, like the one used on 67H, are used in scientific studies to identify individual birds. Because they are colorful, larger, and contain less characters than a federal band they can be read from a distance more easily. This means the bird does not need to be recaptured or handled to confirm its identity. Even though the photographs of 67H were not able to reveal the full federal band number, it was successfully reported and identified by the color-marker itself. Coded color-markers are meant to be as unique as the federal band so that each individual bird has its own alphanumeric code and color combination to set it apart from other birds of the same species. Sightings of these color leg bands and the Lab’s other auxiliary markers can be submitted at reportband.gov. This data is stored in the Bird Banding Laboratory’s database and is available to the public if requested.