A Ring-billed Gull Zeroing In On A Shad

It’s November here in Oklahoma, which means hunting season is in full swing at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge. As an avid wildlife photographer, I enjoy heading to Robert S. Kerr Lock and Dam near Sallisaw during this time of year. The dam provides an amazing opportunity to photograph Ring-billed Gulls plunging into the water to snatch shad from the river below.

Ring-billed Gull Zeroing In On A Shad
Ring-billed Gull Zeroing In On A Shad at Kerr Dam in Oklahoma

As you can see in the image above, the shad swim right near the surface, often with their heads poking out of the water. This makes them easy pickings for the hungry gulls. To capture shots like this, I was sitting in the rocks on the south side of the dam, hand-holding my camera and lens to photograph the fast-paced action.

When the dam is releasing water, the shad get sucked through and the gulls go into feeding frenzy mode. At any given moment there are numerous gulls circling above, waiting to dive down to grab their meal. It’s a thrill to photograph the split-second timing as the gulls plunge into the midst of the shad. The action here is non-stop, which is a wildlife photographer’s dream.

In addition to the Ring-billed Gulls, I often see White Pelicans and Double-crested Cormorants joining in on the shad feast. It’s an amazing sight to witness so many different bird species benefiting from the bounty of shad churning through the dam. The diversity of birds makes for exciting photographic opportunities.

So if you’re looking for fast-paced bird action near northeast Oklahoma this winter, I highly recommend stopping by Kerr Dam. You never know when you might capture an incredible shot of a Ring-billed Gull catching its dinner right before your eyes! Just be ready, because the action here is quick.

Gear Used:

  • Camera: Canon EOS 40D
  • Lens: Canon EF 400 mm f/5.6L


  • Location: Robert S. Kerr Lock and Dam (Oklahoma)
  • Date Taken: November 21, 2009
  • Aperture: f7.1
  • Shutter speed: 1/2000 sec.
  • ISO: 400
  • Exposure Compensation: 0 EV
  • Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority
  • Focal Length: 400 mm (Fixed)

Related Post:

  1. Ring-billed Gull Leaving Water With Shad