Ring-billed Gull

By: Danny Brown

Aug 28 2012

Category: Waterfowl and Waterbirds


Missouri’s most frequently sighted gull, the ring-billed gull, is quite striking in adult plumage. It helped that this non-breeding adult flew through some wonderful light and background conditions one morning when I was photographing trumpeter swans at Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary. I caught the gull with its wings so upright that I decided to make a vertical composition, something I rarely do for in-flight images. The image really exemplifies the proportion of wing length to body size for this species. I never hesitate to photograph ring-billed gulls in flight while waiting for other species to appear. Their stark beauty and acrobatic skills often result in dynamic and appealing images.

Photographers sometimes ask me for technical advice regarding birds in flight. A few tips are as follows:  Be sure your camera is on AI Servo (continuous focus for Nikons), use the center focus point only so you don’t inadvertently catch a wing or something and leave the eye out of focus, get your focus point at the head of the bird but don’t lead it like a hunter as you will lose your focus, and strive for a shutter speed of around 1/1000 of a second or better although this is not always possible without the use of high ISO and resulting graininess. I shoot all of my bird in flight (BIF) images from a tripod when using my 500/4 lens but I prefer handheld when using my 300/4. I hope this helps.

Canon 1D Mark IV; Canon 500/4 L IS Lens with Canon 1.4 TC II Extender; 1/1250 sec @ f/5.6; ISO 400; RAW Capture; Gizto GT3530LS Tripod with Wimberley II Gimbal Head; Shot from a Wilderness Commander 12 Kayak (Camo) and further covered with cut-leaf camo

Thanks for Looking!


Gallery:  http://www.dannybrownphotography.com

5 comments on “Ring-billed Gull”

  1. Hey Danny, pretty image of the ring-billed gull. We just returned from Alaska on Saturday. I received the calendar letter from Cliff and coincidentally they accepted my ring-billed gull shot for the December inset photo. Like yours, my image is also vertical with the long extended wing. Did you get the calendar cover again for 2013?

    Alaska was a beautiful place. I just whittle down almost 1,000 images to around 450 and some of those won’t be keepers once I really start processing the images. The bulk of them are scenic landscapes, boats, and various activities including fishing. Most of my wildlife shots were taken handheld with the 300 mm either on a moving 40′ cruising boat or mostly from a bobbing 10′ Zodiac dinghy. But I do have some keepers of seals, bears, eagles, gulls, etc. that I’m anxious to work on. I’ll be trickling these out before too long. I also took almost 4 hours of video, so I have plenty of footage to make a nice DVD of the Alaska adventure. I just read a Yahoo news article yesterday about a hiker in Denali National Park who was mauled and killed by a grizzly. Apparently he was taking photos of the bear when it turned on him. By the way, taking photos of black bears in shaded areas with foaming white water is none too easy? I’ve been enjoying all your other latest photos especially the killdeer and gray fox.

    More later….Phil


    • Hi Phil,

      Glad to hear you made it home safely and that you were not the photographer I read about in Alaska — same story that you mentioned. I can’t wait to see some of the images you made on your trip. I didn’t make the calendar cover this year, at least not the front cover, but I try not to be to greedy! Smile. Take care.


  2. Wow, what a shot. Must have taken quite a bit of tracking to get this. The gull looks every inch a Wing Commander!

    “I prefer handheld with the 300/4″…HA, HA, for me, as I get all the shakes :))) You have a very steady hand…!

  3. Hi Danny. What a beautiful image, of that Ring Billed Gull. You have managed, once again, to capture the essence of Nature, as it unfolds. I just returned from a long, south west road trip, though the heart of MO, and I am always looking for any bird, or animal that I can see along the way. It keeps me connected to nature. I hope you have a great, and safe weekend. Please keep up the good work.


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