Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ivory Gull

Pagophila eburnea
The Ivory Gull is a small to medium sized Gull that spends most of its time at the high Arctic latitudes. They migrate only very short distances (it is rare for them to enter temperate zones), and are usually found within close vicinity of pack ice. They are the only members of their genus, Pagophila.

Ivory Gulls are appropriately colored for a snowy, winter-year-round environment. Their feathers are completely white, the bill is a bluish grey, and their black legs and eyes are the only dark shades on them. As juveniles they have a bit of black flecking on the feathers, and it takes about two years to develop the snow-white plumage.

These seabirds are both hunters and scavengers. They snatch up crustaceans, fish, rodents, and small birds, but they will also feed on corpses, including those of larger animals like seal and caribou. Other things that these opportunistic feeders will chow down on? The feces and placentas of other animals! Mmm.

Ivory Gulls will also sometimes regurgitate pellets filled with things like fur and bones (similar to what owls do). This practice is more common in areas where rodents make up a larger percentage of the diet.

The Gulls themselves are prey for many larger creatures, ranging from Raptors to Polar Bears. Even their nests become dinner-- once vacated, Caribou will feed on the structures, which are made out of mosses and lichens. Perhaps the most dangerous threat, however, is the Arctic Fox. Foxes will eat the birds at any life stage, and are capable of clearing out entire breeding colonies!

Foxes aren't the only threats though. Ivory Gulls are listed as Near Threatened, and their population has been on the decline since the 1980s. This is due to climate change, human encroachment, and the spread of pollutants in the oceans. Mercury levels in sea bird eggs have risen incredibly in the last 30 years, and those levels have an impact on reproduction.

IUCN Status : Near Threatened
Location : Arctic
Size : Length up to 17in (43cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Charadriiformes
Family : Laridae -- Genus : Pagophila -- Species : P. eburnea

1 comment:

  1. I love Ivory Gulls - they're the only gull species with completely white feathering (as far as I know). I also think there's a tern that's all white, the fairy tern.

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