- ORDER: Charadriiformes
- FAMILY: Laridae
A frequent companion of polar bears, the Ivory Gull is an all-white seabird that lives amid ice floes in the High Arctic. In this inhospitable environment, it survives by feeding on fish and invertebrates around the edges of pack ice and drift ice, as well as being a consummate scavenger, feeding on the remains of polar bear kills, seal afterbirth, and scat. Because of their dependence on sea ice, Ivory Gulls are among the most vulnerable of all species to the effects of climate change.More ID Info
Find This Bird
To see an Ivory Gull requires either a lot of luck or a pilgrimage to the High Arctic (such as northern Alaska spots like St. Lawrence Island or Utqiagvik [Barrow] in October). Every few years, an Ivory Gull appears far south of its usual range, very rarely as far south as California or New Jersey. These appearances are big news in birding circles and spread through eBird, Facebook groups, and listservs as birders travel to get in on the sighting.
- Gaviota marfileña (Spanish)
- Mouette blanche (French)
- Cool Facts
- Ivory Gulls were mentioned by Arctic explorers back as far as the early 1600s, but the scientific description of the species did not come until 1774, when Constantine John Phipps, attempting to reach the North Pole north of Svalbard, brought back the first formal descriptions of Ivory Gulls and polar bears.
- Ivory Gulls are opportunistic eaters. In winter, they often hang around the birthing areas of hooded seals, so that they can scavenge the nutritious placenta after seal pups are born.
- No bird species have been reported at the North Pole itself, but Ivory Gulls have been reported as far north as 88°N (about 130 miles from the North Pole).
- Ivory Gulls take special notice of the color red, repeatedly pecking at red objects (even clothing). One researcher noted that Ivory Gulls scavenging at a carcass picked it clean, including eating every drop of blood on the snow surrounding the carcass.
- Ivory Gulls tend not to land on or enter the water if the air temperature is below freezing—which it is for most of the year.
- The oldest recorded Ivory Gull was at least 23 years, 11 months old when it was shot in Greenland in 2005. It had been banded in Nunavut in 1982.