Living Bird Magazine
Franklin's GullLeucophaeus pipixcan
- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Laridae
A delicate seabird that nests by the thousands in North American marshes, the Franklin’s Gull spends winters along the coasts of Chile and Peru. Its buoyant, swift, graceful flight is useful for catching both flying insects and small fish, as well as for making its long migrations. Breeding adults have black heads and pink-tinged underparts, leading to their folk name of “rosy dove.” Franklin’s Gulls are gregarious throughout the year, and on the wintering grounds more than a million have been reported in a single day.More ID Info
Find This Bird
National Wildlife Refuges are great places to find Franklin’s Gull breeding colonies and to watch the gulls in high breeding plumage as they court and nest. After breeding, Franklin’s Gulls spend a few months moving around the North American interior before heading southward. During this period they are widespread: look for them in farm fields (especially where disking operations turn up insects and worms) and lakeshores, even at high elevation. Foul weather can ground migrating Franklin’s Gulls, so birding in autumn after a storm might turn them up unexpectedly.
- Gaviota Pipizcan (Spanish)
- Mouette de Franklin (French)
- Cool Facts
- In 1832, on the first of two expeditions to northwestern Canada led by Sir John Franklin, ornithologists detected the bird we know as Franklin’s Gull, although they thought it was the similar Laughing Gull. On the subsequent expedition, Dr. John Richardson noted that it was a distinct species and named it Franklin’s Rosy Gull, in honor of the expedition leader.
- In breeding plumage, and sometimes in nonbreeding plumage as well, the Franklin's Gull often shows a rosy pink cast on its chest and abdomen. The color fades as the breeding season progresses and sunlight breaks down the pigment.
- 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 1–2 weeks before departing the colony. Older chicks also add nest material from the immediate vicinity of the nest.
- Like many long-distance migrants, Franklin’s Gulls have strayed far from their normal range. Vagrants (birds that are far from home) have turned up in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand.
- The oldest recorded Franklin's Gull was at least 9 years, 5 months old when it was shot in Montana in 1972. It had been banded in the same state in 1963.