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Species Guide
A photo of a Franklin's Gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan)
Franklin's Gull

Franklin's Gull

Leucophaeus pipixcan

The Franklin's gull (Leucophaeus pipixcan) is a small gull, with a length ranging from 12.6 to 14.2 inches (32 to 36 cm). It is distinguished by its white body and a notably darker grey back and wings compared to other gulls of similar size, save for the larger Laughing gull. The wings are marked with black tips and a white band adjacent to them. During the breeding season, adults sport a striking black hood, red bill, and red legs, which are less pronounced or lost in the non-breeding winter plumage.

Identification Tips

Adult Franklin's gulls in summer have a black hood, red bill, and legs, and a white body with a dark grey back. The wings have black tips with a white band. In winter, the hood is mostly lost. Juveniles resemble adults but have less developed hoods and lack the white wing band. It takes three years for them to reach full maturity.


Franklin's gulls breed near prairie lakes, favoring colonies where they can construct ground nests or sometimes floating ones.


This migratory bird breeds in central provinces of Canada and adjacent northern United States, wintering in Argentina, the Caribbean, Chile, and Peru. While uncommon on the coasts of North America, it has been recorded as a rare vagrant in northwest Europe, south and west Africa, Australia, Japan, Israel, and Cyprus.


Franklin's gulls are omnivorous, scavenging as well as actively seeking small prey. A notable behavior is observed in the spring on rivers like the Bow River, where large groups float with the current, sipping emerging insects. They repeat this feeding pattern by floating through a particular stretch and returning to the same section.


The species breeds in colonies, with nests constructed on the ground or sometimes floating. The typical clutch consists of two or three eggs, which are incubated for about three weeks.

Similar Species

The Franklin's gull is similar in size to other gulls but can be distinguished by its darker grey back and wings, as well as the black hood and red bill and legs during the breeding season. The Laughing gull is larger and the only similar species with a darker grey back.

Diet and Feeding

As omnivores, Franklin's gulls scavenge and hunt for suitable small prey. They are known to sip emerging insects from the water's surface in a unique feeding behavior.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List classifies Franklin's gull as Least Concern, indicating that the species does not currently face a significant risk of extinction.

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Franklin's Gull Fun Facts

Did you know?
Franklin's Gulls make floating nests that must be maintained to keep them afloat.

Franklin's Gulls on Birda


More Gulls, Terns, Skimmers

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