Gulls are true birds of the Arctic, rarely being found away from the
vicinity of pack ice in the northern Arctic. They are the only gull
with a pure white plumage as adults, and even first-year birds only have a
smattering of darker markings on their face and wings. They do move
southward in the winter, following the edge of the expanding winter ice
pack, but only very rarely stray as far south as the Canada/United States
border. Ivory Gulls are unexpected in South Dakota were unknown here
until February 16th, 2008, when Ricky Olson spotted one at Oahe Dam near
Habitat: Nearly always found in Arctic habitats,
such as around floating pack ice, and near shorelines of extreme northern
islands. Nests on rocky ground or rocky cliffs.
Diet: Varied, including a wide variety of marine
life (small fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and insects). They are also
willing scavengers, feeding on carcasses and even garbage dumps.
Behavior: Will feed in flight by dipping down to
the water's surface and picking up small prey items. Also often feeds
by simply walking along the ground or ice and foraging for small prey.
Typically breeds in small colonies.
Breeding: Non-breeder in South Dakota
Song: Harsh mewing whistles, and other varied
Migration: Movements are typically limited to
following the edges of pack ice, as they will move south as the Arctic ice
cap expands in winter. However, they are only an extremely rare
straggler south of northern and central Canada, with occasional records as
far south as New England and the Great Lakes.
Similar Species: Generally distinctive, as they
are the only gull with pure white plumage as adults.
Status: Their remote northern habitat makes
tracking of population trends difficult, but documented declines have
occurred in recent decades at some known nesting sites.
Cornell University's "All About Birds - Ivory Gull"
eNature.com - Ivory Gull
Photo Information: Oahe Dam area near Pierre -
February 16th, 2008 - Doug