On New Year’s Day, an Ivory Gull was reported from Duluth’s Canal Park. Ivory Gulls are circumpolar, almost never seen away from arctic pack ice. Their breeding colonies are widely scattered around the globe. Even in winter this bird rarely ventures south of the Bering Sea or waters off Greenland. This bird’s genus, Pagophila, means “frost-lover.” Erika and I drove the 180 miles to Duluth and spent the next two days looking at the gull and continuing our ten-year search for a Great Gray Owl. We did not have to search for the gull. About 50 birders stood on the ice-covered shore of Canal Park peering at a distant Ivory Gull.
This sighting was fairly unimpressive until the gull flew over and circled the birders. The bird was easily recognized by its small size and buoyant flight. An adult Ivory Gull is pure white. This individual’s black spots and black face indicate that it is a first-winter bird.
The next morning (2 January) we returned to Canal Park. Almost immediately the Ivory Gull flew in and landed a few feet in front of us. By this time, birders were leaving salmon fillets to attract the bird. (I suppose leaving salmon is not fundamentally different from feeding bird seed to songbirds.) Ivory Gulls are aggressive scavengers. Our bird had no trouble competing with other, larger gulls vying for the salmon.