Bird sightings: Franklin's gull

Published June 1st 2012 10:25 am



Larus pipixcan

You can see Franklin's gulls this time of year as they stage for migration along the Antelope Island Causeway. These birds gather, heads bobbing and bills open, as they catch brine flies. It's quite comical to see all those heads going up and down in one spot.

Right now, the birds also are molting into their breeding plumage. Franklin's gulls have a black head, with white crescents above and below the eye, and a red bill. The neck, chest and belly are white. The wings are a slate gray with white tips on the secondary flight feathers.

Migrating Franklin's gulls leave Utah for the Pacific Ocean from Central America southward where they winter. They return in the spring where they breed, mostly in wetland marshes surrounding the Great Salt Lake.

Franklin's are colonial nesters. Both parents build the nest in the alkali bulrushes and cattails. The female incubates three eggs 18 to 25 days. The semiprecocial young (hatching with eyes open, down-covered and able to leave the nest soon after hatching) are fed by both parents.

By Bill Fenimore, author of Backyard Birds of Utah and member of the Utah Wildlife Board.

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Larus pipixcan

You can see Franklin's gulls this time of year as they stage for migration along the Antelope Island Causeway. These birds gather, heads bobbing and bills open, as they catch brine flies. It's quite comical to see all those heads going up and down in one spot.

Right now, the birds also are molting into their breeding plumage. Franklin's gulls have a black head, with white crescents above and below the eye, and a red bill. The neck, chest and belly are white. The wings are a slate gray with white tips on the secondary flight feathers.

Migrating Franklin's gulls leave Utah for the Pacific Ocean from Central America southward where they winter. They return in the spring where they breed, mostly in wetland marshes surrounding the Great Salt Lake.

Franklin's are colonial nesters. Both parents build the nest in the alkali bulrushes and cattails. The female incubates three eggs 18 to 25 days. The semiprecocial young (hatching with eyes open, down-covered and able to leave the nest soon after hatching) are fed by both parents.

By Bill Fenimore, author of Backyard Birds of Utah and member of the Utah Wildlife Board.

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