Common Name

Scientific Name

Photo by Don Paul
Photo Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Franklin's gull, Larus pipixcan, breeds in both large and small nesting colonies along marshes in inland Canada, much of North Dakota, northern Montana, and in approximately a dozen other very localized areas in the northern United States and the Great Basin. Breeding colonies are commonly seen on the east side of Utah's Great Salt Lake during the summer months. Following breeding, Franklin's gulls will "wander" extensively throughout the prairie regions of the United States before heading south to their wintering grounds along the west coast of South America and the Gulf coast of the United States. Transients may be seen throughout Utah.

During migration, as well as during the breeding season, Franklin's gulls feed on earthworms, seeds in recently cultivated fields, and grasshoppers. When near water, they catch flying insects during flight or pluck insects from the water's surface. Male gulls attract females with their calls, and then the pair engages in a courtship behavior in which the female begs for food and the male regurgitates food for her. The pair builds a nest on top of the water and anchors it with vegetation. A male mates with just one female, and three eggs are incubated by both the male and the female. The young hatch after about twenty-five days, and both parents care for the hatchlings until the young leave the nest, about one month later. Franklin's gulls are very sensitive to human disturbance, and entire colonies will readily abandon nesting sites if bothered. Colonies shift locations yearly as water levels in marshes rise and fall.


  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • Behle, W. H., Sorensen, E. D. and C. M. White. 1985. Utah birds: a revised checklist. Utah Museum of Natural History, Occasional Publication No. 4. Salt Lake City, UT.

  • Burger, J., and M. Gochfeld. 1994. Franklinís Gull (Larus pipixcan). Birds of North America 116.