Ivory Gull (Pagophila eburnea)

Ivory Gull

[order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Laridae | [latin] Pagophila eburnea | [UK] Ivory Gull | [FR] Mouette blanche | [DE] Elfenbeinmowe | [ES] Gaviota Marfilena | [NL] Ivoormeeuw


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Xema eburnea
Pagophila eburnea EU, NA n coasts Arctic Ocean

Physical charateristics

The Ivory Gull is a medium-sized gull, approximately 10% larger and longerwinged than the Black-legged Kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla. It is distinctive at all ages, but is particularly striking in its pure white adult plumage. Immature birds have a dusky face, and black spots on the breast and flanks, tips of the primaries, and tail and outer wing coverts, although the extent of speckling is highly variable among individuals. The eye is dark, giving the bird a gentle expression. It exhibits a
short period of immaturity for a gull of its size, acquiring adult plumage in its second winter. In adults, the bill is generally slate blue at the base, becoming pale yellow and tipped with red, but is darker in juveniles. The Ivory Gull has
relatively short legs, which are black at all ages. Its round chest, short legs, and rolling gait give it a pigeon-like appearance when on the ground. However, although it is a stocky built bird, in the air it has a graceful and agile flight.
Overall, the sexes are similar in appearance, and, once they reach maturity, there is little or no seasonal variation in characteristics.

Listen to the sound of Ivory Gull

[audio:http://www.aviflevoland.nl/sounddb/I/Ivory Gull.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 110 cm wingspan max.: 114 cm
size min.: 42 cm size max.: 44 cm
incubation min.: 24 days incubation max.: 26 days
fledging min.: 26 days fledging max.: 26 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 3  


Eurasia, North America : North coasts


In summer, Ivory Gulls are found in the High Arctic. The birds nest on granite, limestone, or gravel. Their main requirement for breeding is an opening in the ice where they can feed. In other seasons, Ivory Gulls are found along the edge of the pack ice.


Ivory Gulls can live from 11 to 15 years. They become sexually mature when they turn pure white or during their second year. They often arrive at their breeding grounds before the snow melts, but they don’t build a nest until the ground is sufficiently thawed. Exact timing is determined by the weather. Ivory Gulls nest on either flat ground or cliffs. Both sexes help build a nest of mosses, lichens, and grasses. The female lays one to three buff-coloured, spotted eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs, which hatch after 25 days. The chicks fledge after 11 days and begin feeding themselves after just 3 weeks.

Feeding habits

Chiefly invertebrates and fish; also scavenges on faeces, carrion, and offal. Forages singly or in small groups, sometimes with Kittiwake, Grey Phalarope, and Sabine?s Gull. Feeds by dipping-to-surface, surface-plunging, wading in shallow water, and surface-seizing. Scavenges on land and ice for faeces of seals, walrus, and polar bear, and at polar bear kills.


This species has declined rapidly in parts of its range, but its status in other areas is poorly known. A number of factors are likely to be contributing to declines, including climate change, pollution and increasing human intrusion or hunting within breeding areas. It is currently considered Near Threatened; but further surveys are required in order to clarify the true magnitude of declines.
Ivory Gull status Near Threatened


The Ivory Gull has a circumpolar, but patchy, breeding distribution across the high arctic. Small, scattered colonies occur in Arctic Canada, Greenland, Spitzbergen, and the northern islands and archipelagoes of Russia in the Kara Sea. The wintering
distribution of the Ivory Gull is poorly known but is generally along the southern edge of pack ice. In Canada, the Ivory Gull has a highly restricted range while breeding, nesting exclusively in Nunavut Territory. Present all year among pack-ice and drift-ice of Arctic Ocean, probably going ashore only to breed. Some evidence from Atlantic sector of southward movement for winter, as far as southern limits of drift-ice.

Distribution map

Ivory Gull distribution range map

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *