Franklin's Gull - Leucophaeus pipixcan
The Franklin's Gull is a small gull of wetlands in the interior of North America. In breeding plumage, this species has a black hood and a dark red bill with a black mark near the tip. The dark gray of the back extends to the upperpart of the wings. The underparts of the bird, including the wings, are white. The hindneck, the area between the black hood and the gray back, is also white. The underparts are sometimes tinged with pink, a coloration that earned the species the early name of Rosy or Prairie Dove (Burger and Gochfeld 1994). The legs are brownish-black or dusky (Burger and Gochfeld 1994). Broad white arcs directly above and below the black eye are apparent during the breeding season. The gray wings are tipped with a white band, then a black margin, and ultimately with large white primary ends.
In non-breeding plumage, the species loses the redness in the bill, and it becomes black. The black hood is reduced to an area from the eye to the back of the head, revealing a white forehead, throat, and splotchy crown. The bird averages 37 cm (14.5 inches) long with a wingspan of 91 cm (36 inches); the male tends to be slightly larger than the female (Sibley 2000). The vocalization of the Franklin's Gull is described as a nasal, laughing, hollow sound. A "kowii
" or "queel
" are used to define the common call (Sibley 2000).
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
The most likely species with which the Franklin's Gull could be confused is the Laughing Gull, a rare species in Montana. The Franklin's Gull is slightly smaller, with proportionately smaller legs and bill. The bill is thinner and does not droop at the tip as it does on the Laughing Gull (Burger and Gochfeld 1994). The arcs of white around the Franklin's Gull's eye are more apparent as are the large white primary tips of the wings; the wingtips on the Laughing Gull have white on them, but the white is small and is not always evident (Sibley 2000). Differentiating the Franklin's Gull from the Bonaparte's Gull can be made by several distinguishing features. The Franklin's Gull is larger; the bill color is red in the Franklin's Gull compared to black in the Bonaparte's Gull; and unlike the indistinct white around the Bonaparte's Gull's eye, the white eye-arcs of the Franklin's Gull are obvious (Sibley 2000).
Western Hemisphere Range
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version)
Map Help and Descriptions
SUMMER (Feb 16 - Dec 14)
Direct Evidence of Breeding
Indirect Evidence of Breeding
No Evidence of Breeding
WINTER (Dec 15 - Feb 15)
Not Regularly Observed
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
The Franklin's Gull generally returns to the state in mid-April and is gone by early to mid-October. In Montana, the extreme migration dates for this species are April 4 (Casey 2000) and October 11 (Reichel 1996). The normal arrival date at Fort Peck is April 20, and at Bozeman it is May 15 (Skaar et al. 1985).
Preferring large, relatively permanent prairie marsh complexes, the Franklin's Gull builds its nests over water on a supporting structure of emergent vegetation. Nesting is noted to occur in cattails (Typha spp.) and bulrushes (Scirpus spp.) (Berger and Gochfeld 1994). Typical water depth is 30 to 60 cm. Nesting over water differs from the nesting habits of Montana's other, generally ground nesting, gulls (Johnsgard 1992). Franklin's Gulls prefer to nest at sites with intermediate vegetation density, interspersed with open water of various sizes (Burger and Gochfeld 1994). Preferred nesting sites within a wetland can change from year to year because of changes in water level and associated changes in vegetation (Burger and Gochfeld 1994). One key feature of selected nesting sites is that the water levels remain high enough throughout the nesting period, or at least until the young can fledge, in order to provide protection from predators (Casey 2000). During migration, including the Bozeman area, the Franklin's Gull can be found feeding on dry land, especially in cultivated fields prior to planting (Skaar 1969, Johnsgard 1992).
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
- Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
- Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
- Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
- Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
- Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if
point observations were associated with that system.
Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: mtnhp.org/requests
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.
- Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
- Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
- Foresman, K.R. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
- Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 1302 p.
- Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. 72 p.
- Maxell, B.A. 2000. Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species. Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1. Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana. 161 p.
- Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. 2004. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.
At Freezeout Lake, stomach contents included insects, oligochaetes, arachnids and unidentified vertebrates, and plant material believed to be taken incidentally to consuming animals (Rothweiler 1960).
Franklin's Gulls often flock when feeding. During migration and on wintering areas, this species has been observed in upwards of 500,000 individuals in a flock (Burger and Gochfeld 1994).
Breeding is very localized and occurs mainly in the northern portion of state's plains region and in the southwest. Franklin's Gulls are known to nest in five locations in Montana and may account for as many as 34,000 breeding pairs (Reichel 1996). In 1994-95, the number of nesting pairs for each of the locations was recorded as: Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge (50 to 500); Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge (20; previously up to 7500); Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge (16,000); Freezeout Lake Wildlife Management Area (16,000); and Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (200 +; Reichel 1996). Possible breeding has been reported at other locations in Montana, without details (Montana Bird Distribution Committee 2012).
At Freezeout Lake, nest density ranged from 5 to 111 nests per 0.1 acre plot (Rothweiler 1960). Nests are typically 0.6 to 2.5 m apart (Burger 1974). They are made of piled vegetation, usually whatever is closest; material is added throughout the nesting period up to fledging. At Freezeout Lake nests were constructed of alkali bulrush stems, either built from the lake bottom, or floating but anchored to emergent vegetation (Rothweiler 1960). At Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge nest diameter averaged 58 cm early in incubation; additional material increases the nest size throughout the nesting period (Burger and Gochfeld 1994). Franklin's Gull may nest in association with other colonial nesting species including: White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi), Black-crowned Night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), and Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) (Casey 2000).
No management activities in Montana specific to Franklin's Gulls are documented. However, management activities should recognize the caution required at colonies particularly just before egg-laying and just after hatching to prevent desertion of the colony or mortality of young chicks (Reichel 1996).
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
- Burger, J. 1974. Breeding adaptations of Franklin's gull (Larus pipixcan) to a marsh habitat. Animal Behavior 22:521-567.
- Casey, D. 2000. Partners in Flight Draft Bird Conservation Plan Montana. Version 1.0. 287 pp.
- Johnsgard, P.A. 1992. Birds of the Rocky Mountains with particular reference to national parks in the northern Rocky Mountain region. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. xi + 504 pp.
- Marks, J.S., P. Hendricks, and D. Casey. 2016. Birds of Montana. Arrington, VA. Buteo Books. 659 pages.
- Montana Bird Distribution Committee. 2012. P.D. Skaar's Montana bird distribution. 7th Edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, Montana. 208 pp. + foldout map.
- Reichel, J. D. 1996. Preliminary colonial nesting bird survey on the Bureau of Land Management Lewistown District: 1995. Unpublished report, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Lewistown, Montana.
- Rothweiler, R. A. 1960. Food habits, movements, and nesting of gulls, Freezout Lake, Teton County, Montana. Montana Fish and Game Department, Helena. Paper Number 494. 26 pp.
- Sibley, D.A. 2000. The Sibley guide to birds. National Audubon Society and Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, NY. 544 pp.
- Skaar, P. D., D. L. Flath, and L. S. Thompson. 1985. Montana bird distribution. Montana Academy of Sciences Monograph 3(44): ii-69.
- Skaar, P.D. 1969. Birds of the Bozeman latilong: a compilation of data concerning the birds which occur between 45 and 46 N. latitude and 111 and 112 W. longitude, with current lists for Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, impinging Montana counties and Yellowstone National Park. Bozeman, MT. 132 p.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
Do you know of a citation we're missing?
- American Ornithologists Union. 1983. Checklist of North American birds, 6th Edition. 877 PP.
- American Ornithologists’ Union [AOU]. 1998. Check-list of North American birds, 7th edition. American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C. 829 p.
- Baicich, P.J. and C.J.O. Harrison. 2005. A guide to the nests, eggs and nestlings of North American birds. Second edition. Academic Press, New York.
- Bent, A. C. 1921. Life histories of North American gulls and terns. U.S. National Museum Bulletin 113. Washington, D.C.
- Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. 2017. Pocket Guide to Northern Prairie Birds. Brighton, CO: Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. 98 p.
- Bramblett, R.G., and A.V. Zale. 2002. Montana Prairie Riparian Native Species Report. Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit, Montana State University - Bozeman.
- Burger, J. 1973. Competition between American Coots and Franklin's Gulls for nest sites and egg predation by the coots. Wilson Bull. 85: 449-451.
- Burger, J. and M. Gochfeld. 1994. Franklin's Gull (Larus pipixcan). Species Account Number 116. The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology; Retrieved 3/25/2008 from The Birds of North America Online database
- Casey, D. 2000. Partners in Flight Bird Conservation Plan Montana Version 1.0. Montana Partners in Flight. Kalispell, Montana.
- Casey, D. 2004. Coordinated bird monitoring in Montana - special habitat/species monitoring: wetlands and colonial nesters. Montana Bird Conservation Partnership and University of Montana. pp 12 plus appendix.
- Confluence Consulting Inc. 2010. Montana Department of Transportation Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Reports (various sites). MDT Helena, MT.
- Confluence Consulting Inc. 2011. Montana Department of Transportation Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Reports (various sites). MDT Helena, MT.
- Confluence Consulting Inc. 2013. Montana Department of Transportation Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Reports (various sites). MDT Helena, MT.
- Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Schuster Inc. New York. 785 pp.
- Feigley, H. P. 1997. Colonial nesting bird survey on the Bureau of Land Management Lewistown District: 1996. Unpublished report, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Lewistown, Montana.
- Gillihan, SW. and T. VerCauteren. 2015. Pocket Guide to Prairie Birds. Brighton, CO: Bird Conservancy of the Rockies. 91 p.
- Gniadek, S. 1983. Southwest Glendive Wildlife Baseline Inventory. Miles City, Mont: Bureau of Land Management, Miles City District Office. 56 pp with appendices.
- Golden Sunlight Mines, Inc. 2000. Golden Sunlight Mines, Inc., Whitehall, MT. Annual Permit Reports.
- Hand, R.L. 1969. A distributional checklist of the birds of western Montana. Unpublished. Available at Mansfield Library, University of Montana, Missoula.
- Harrison, C.J.O. 1978. A field guide to the nests, eggs and nestlings of North American birds. Collins, Cleveland.
- Hays, R., R.L. Eng, and C.V. Davis (preparers). 1984. A list of Montana birds. Helena, MT: MT Dept. of Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
- Hendricks, P. and M. Roedel. 2001. A faunal survey of the Centennial Valley Sandhills, Beaverhead County, Montana. Report to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, MT. 44 p.
- Hendricks, P., S. Lenard, C. Currier, and J. Carlson. 2007. Grassland bird surveys in north Valley County, Montana: 2001-2006. Report to the Bureau of Land Management, Glasgow Field Office. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, Montana. 19 pp. plus appendices.
- Hendricks, P., S. Lenard, D.M. Stagliano, and B.A. Maxell. 2013. Baseline nongame wildlife surveys on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Report to the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, MT. 83 p.
- Idaho Fish & Game. Idaho's water birds: the colony nesters. Nongame Wildlife Leaflet 2. 12 p.
- Johnsgard, P.A. 1979. Birds of the Great Plains: breeding species and their distribution. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln. 539 pp.
- Joslin, Gayle, and Heidi B. Youmans. 1999. Effects of recreation on Rocky Mountain wildlife: a review for Montana. [Montana]: Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Society.
- Knopf, F. L. 1994. Avian assemblages on altered grasslands. Pages 247-257 in A century of avifaunal change in western North America (J. R. Jehl, Jr. and N. K. Johnson, Eds.). Studies in Avian Biology No. 15.
- Lambing, J. H., D. A. Nimick, J. R. Knapton, and D. U. Palawski. 1994. Physical, chemical, and biological data for detailed study of the Sun River Irrigation Project, Freezout Lake Wildlife Management Area, and Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge, west-central Montana, 1990-92, with selected data for 1987-89. Open-File Report 94-120, U.S. Geological Survey, Helena, Montana.
- Land & Water Consulting, Inc., Missoula, MT., 2002, Montana Dept. of Transportation Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Report, Year 2001: Beaverhead Gateway, Dillon, Montana. Proj. No. 130091.011. July 2002. In 2001 Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Reports, Vol. I.
- Land & Water Consulting, Inc., Missoula, MT., 2002, Montana Dept. of Transportation Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Report, Year 2002: Beaverhead Gateway, Dillon, Montana. Proj. No. 130091.011. February 2003. In 2002 Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Reports, Vol. I.
- Land & Water Consulting, Inc., Missoula, MT., 2002, Montana Dept. of Transportation Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Report, Year 2002: Perry Ranch, Glacier Co., Montana. Proj. No. 130091.020. May 2003. In 2002 Wetland Mitigation Monitoring Reports, Vol. II.
- Lenard, S. 2006. Birds of Blaine County, Riparian Point Count Surveys 2005. Report to the Bureau of LandManagement, Havre Field Station, Havre, Montana. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, MT. 16pp.plus appendices.
- Lenard, S., Compiler. 2005. Surveys for Animal Species of Concern in Sage and Grassland Landscapes in Montana. An unpublished report to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, State Wildlife Grants Program. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, Montana. 63pp.
- Lenard, S., J. Carlson, J. Ellis, C. Jones, and C. Tilly. 2003. P. D. Skaar's Montana bird distribution, 6th edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, MT. 144 pp.
- Littlefield, C.D. and S.P. Thompson. 1981. History and status of the Franklin's gull on Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon. Great Basin Nat. 41(4):440-444.
- Montana Bird Distribution Committee. 1996. P. D. Skaar's Montana Bird Distribution, Fifth Edition. Special Publication No. 3. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena. 130 pp.
- Montana Dept. of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Region Four., 1996, Draft Environmental Analysis for Weed Management.
- Mora, M. A. 1995. Residues and trends of organochloride pesticide and polychlorinated biphenyls in birds from Texas, 1965-88. Technical Report 14. Washington, D.C.: U.S.D.I. National Biological Service. 26 p.
- National Geographic Society. 1983. Field guide to the birds of North America. Second Edition. National Geographic Society, Washington, DC.
- Oechsli, L.M. 2000. Ex-urban development in the Rocky Mountain West: consequences for native vegetation, wildlife diversity, and land-use planning in Big Sky, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Montana State University, Bozeman. 73 p.
- Palawski, D.U., et al., 1991, Contaminant biomonitoring at the Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge in 1988.
- Pavlacky Jr., D.C., et al. 2021. Landscape-scale conservation mitigates the biodiversity loss of grassland birds. Ecological Applications e2548. 17 p.
- Rothweiler, R.A. 1960. Food habits, movements and nesting of gulls on a waterfowl area, Freezeout Lake, Teton County, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 29 p.
- Rundquist, V.M. 1973. Avian ecology on stock ponds in two vegetational types in north-central Montana. Ph.D. Dissertation. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 112 p.
- Sater, S. 2022. The insects of Sevenmile Creek, a pictorial guide to their diversity and ecology. Undergraduate Thesis. Helena, MT: Carroll College. 242 p.
- Sibley, D. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY. 598 pp.
- Stewart, R.E. 1975. Breeding birds of North Dakota. Tri-College Center for Environmental Studies, Fargo, North Dakota. 295 pp.
- Stewart, R.E. and H.A. Kantrud. 1972. Population estimates of breeding birds in North Dakota. The Auk 89(4):766-788.
- Stiles, F.G. and A.F. Skutch. 2003. A guide to the birds of Costa Rica. Comstock Publishing Associates, Cornell University Press, Ithaca. 511 pp.
- Sullivan, Daniel, 1982, Bait stations as a means of rodenticide presentation to control Columbian ground squirrrels. Technical Rep. 82-3. Sept. 1982.
- Taylor, D.M. 1992. The status of Franklin's Gull in Idaho. Western Birds 23:39-40.
- Terres, J.K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 1109 pp.
- Thunderbird Wildlife Consulting, Inc., Gillette, WY., 2003, Spring Creek Mine 2002 Wildlife Monitoring. March 2003.
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2021. Birds of Conservation Concern 2021. United States Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Migratory Birds, Falls Church, Virginia.
- U.S. Forest Service. 1991. Forest and rangeland birds of the United States: Natural history and habitat use. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Agricultural Handbook 688. 625 pages.
- Waage, Bruce C., 1995, Western Energy Company Rosebud Mine, Colstrip, Montana:1994 Annual Wildlife Monitoring Report; December 1, 1993 - November 30, 1994. February 27, 1995.
- Waldt, R. 1995. The Pine Butte Swamp Preserve bird list. Choteau, MT: The Nature Conservancy. Updated August 1995.
- Watts, C.R. and L.C. Eichhorn. 1981. Changes in the birds of central Montana. Proceedings of the Montana Academy of Sciences 40:31-40.
- Additional Sources of Information Related to "Birds"