Out There

Canadian Wildlife - - CONTENTS - Text and Pho­tog­ra­phy by Wayne Lynch

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




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.

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