The Ivory Gull Situation

First off, if reading that subject line makes you think of this guy, you're not alone. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you're a better person than I...

For something like the fourth winter in a row, an Ivory Gull has appeared in the northeastern US. These recent records include Massachusetts (3), Rhode Island (2), New Hampshire (1), New York (1), and New Jersey (1). But there's one coastal state that has been skipped...Connecticut!

The recent discovery of yet another adult, this one in Georgia, combined with all the recent adult records makes one realize that things are not going well for the species in the high arctic. Not that we need circumstantial evidence to see this, because a decline has been well documented. But it starts to hit home when you see the effects first-hand. These birds are likely starving and roaming around in search of food. It's no surprise that they only settle into specific areas when food (fish/bird carcasses) is located.

adult Ivory Gull on freshly fallen snow, Gloucester MA, January 2009

This winter's local Ivory sightings may well involve the same bird. First an adult was sighted in New Hampshire, then on Cape Cod, then on the RI/MA line, and now (as of yesterday) along the eastern RI coast. For us Connecticut birders, this is about as promising a situation (sorry) as we've seen because it's getting closer and closer. But if this bird does continue along the coast to the west, there's no guarantee it will ever enter CT. If it were to reach extreme western RI at Watch Hill, the bird would have two choices. It could either hug the coastline and continue west into Connecticut, OR it could just hop right over to Fisher's Island (NY) and eventually continue to Long Island.

Time will tell. It will take diligent and repeated searching along the CT coast to turn up this bird. We have a really cold snap on its way which should re-freeze some coastal coves, which may help the gull feel a bit more at home.

As of this morning, the Ivory Gull has disappeared in Rhode Island again. I actually was on my way to see it this morning when the snow really picked up and I decided to turn around after seeing a few spinouts on the highway. Good decision. When last seen yesterday evening, it was still a good 35 miles from CT, so it has some flying to do.

- NB


  1. Will you be coming up to Gloucester for Cape Ann winter Birding weekend?

  2. Not sure who you're talking about... and it sounds like I'm better off!!

    These Ivorys (Ivories??) just prove my own personal rules valuable when it comes to Arctic species. The most likely reason that they are down this far is because they are starving for food. Then dozens, and maybe hundreds of birders flock to the bird.

    I have to think that a Snowy Owl or Ivory Gull or even Gyrfalcon doesn't have a bunch of hobbiests flashing them and following them everywhere.

    I get torn between wanting to see an amazing bird, and wanting to just leave it alone.

    You said it best... something isnt going well for the Ivory in the Arctic. I'd rather get my lifer up there!!!

  3. I will not be attending the birding weekend. The main reason being the repeated business given to the 7 Seas Whale Watch. As many birders may recall, one of the naturalists (owners?) wrote a lengthy, offensive, and lie-ridden internet post regarding the Massachusetts birding community, specifically regarding the Ivory Gull pictured above. I do not recall an apology from him. I had a personal encounter with this person that was really mind-blowing and disturbing. I will never give any business to that company, and I have since informed several dozen birders of this guy's conduct. I am disappointed to see that his company will again be seeing business and advertising during this event.


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