The Ivory Gull’s scientific name, Pagophila, means ice lover, apt as it spends much of its life in the High Arctic
Breeds in the eastern High Arctic and winters off Labrador and Newfoundland
WHY SO SPECIAL
One of Canada’s rarest & most northern gull species
The ivory gull’s generic scientific name, Pagophila, means ice lover, and it is truly a northern species, spending much of its life in the High Arctic, commonly above 70 degrees N. Researchers on a Russian icebreaker have even sighted this gull at the North Pole. Ivory gulls generally eat small fish and crustaceans, but many rely on scavenging, especially from seal carcasses left by polar bears, perhaps tracking them as they roam. Russian biologist Savva Uspenskii wrote “in early spring on Franz Josef Land, each bear had its own group of ivory gulls, made up of four to six birds. The gulls evidently did not want to risk being separated from ‘their’ bear, and when it left the area they also disappeared.” Since the 1980s, the small Canadian ivory gull population has dropped by 80 per cent, and today there are fewer than 1,000 birds. The reasons for the decline are uncertain, but global warming and dramatic changes in the Arctic pack ice are strongly implicated.