I agree with Jesse that there needs to be more information given on the Ivory Gull. I drove up to Duluth this morning and there had been nothing posted about the bird since 3:00 the previous day. However, when I arrived in Canal Park there were 30 or more observers looking at the bird with more arriving and leaving all of the time. I was elated to see the bird but confused that no one had posted anything about it to MOU for so long. I would like to give a bit of general information about the species for those birders who are not totally familiar with the Ivory Gull.
Ivory Gulls are one of the very few purely arctic species of birds and are very closely associated to pack ice in all but the breeding season. Ivory gulls often associate with Polar Bears and, like them, are very susceptible to changes in climate. Ivory Gulls breed in scattered colonies through the arctic and have been studied at breeding sites. The overall number of individuals has recently been estimated between 16,000-28,000, a very small number for a gull species, and the species is thought to be declining rapidly at its Canada, and possibly Greenland, breeding sites according to surveys. The birds face a surprisingly high number of threats given their northerly range and are actually hunted on their breeding grounds. Studies on the eggs show very high concentrations of mercury in Ivory Gulls, some of the highest among seabirds.
Ivory Gulls are the sole member of the Genus Pagophila and are considered by some to be intermediate between gulls and skuas.
Most birds that are seen in Minnesota that are reported as rare are rare for our state but easily found in other locations in the United States. This is not the case for the Ivory Gull, which is very difficult to find in the Lower 48. When it is located it is usually found on the Great Lakes or coastal New England in the winter (but not every winter) and is very rarely recorded on the Pacific Coast outside of Alaska.
Because of all of these factors the Ivory Gull was my number one most wanted bird in Minnesota. The experience of seeing this individual was unforgettable as it flew and landed several times to the great delight to all of the observers. The beauty of this juvenile birds is second to none and the photographs don't at all do it justice. If anyone is contemplating going to Duluth to see the bird I would highly recommend the experience!
Happy New Years,
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