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Franklin's Gull

Leucophaeus pipixcan ORDER: CHARADRIIFORMES FAMILY: LARIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A small, black-headed gull of the prairies, the Franklin's Gull is a common sight in the interior of North America, following plows to eat exposed worms, insects, and mice.

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At a GlanceHelp

Measurements
Both Sexes
Length
12.6–14.2 in
32–36 cm
Wingspan
33.5–37.4 in
85–95 cm
Weight
7.8–11.8 oz
220–335 g
Other Names
  • Mouette de Franklin (French)
  • Gaviota de Franklin, Gaviotin, Caguil, Caulle, Fardella (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Franklin's Gull is unique among gulls in having two complete molts each year rather than one.
  • The floating nest of the Franklin's Gull gradually sinks as the material below the water surface decays, and it requires continual maintenance. Both parents add new nest material daily until one or two weeks before departing the colony. Older chicks also add nest material from the immediate vicinity of the nest.
  • In breeding plumage, and sometimes in nonbreeding plumage as well, the Franklin's Gull often shows a rosy pink cast (rarely salmon) on its chest and abdomen. This color is most apparent on the shafts and bases of its feathers. The color fades as the breeding season progresses as the pigment is broken down by sunlight.

Habitat


Lake/Pond

Nests in marshes and along inland lakes. Winters along coast in bays, estuaries, and along sandy beaches.

Food


Omnivore

Insects, earthworms, fish, mice, garbage, seeds.

Nesting

Nesting Facts
Clutch Size
1–4 eggs
Egg Description
Greenish brown with dark splotches.
Condition at Hatching
Semiprecocial with eyes open. Covered in down. Able to stand within a day, but usually remain in nest for three weeks.
Nest Description

A floating platform of vegetation, placed in thick reeds above water. Nests in colonies.

Nest Placement

Floating

Behavior


Ground Forager

Forages while walking or swimming. Forages in dense flocks. Follows plows. Catches flying insects on the wing.

Conservation

status via IUCN

Least Concern

Franklin's Gull populations declined by 4.7 percent per year between 1966 and 2010, resulting in a cumulative decline of 88 percent, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. The 2014 State of the Birds Report listed them as a Common Bird in Steep Decline. The Franklin's Gull depends on extensive prairie marshes for breeding, and entire colonies may shift sites from year to year depending on water levels. Once threatened by habitat loss due to large-scale drainage projects and the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, this species has regained numbers with the creation of large wetlands, mainly on protected national wildlife refuges. Colony shifts continue to occur, however, influenced by drought and fluctuating water levels.

Credits

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