Drifting in from their prairie stronghold, Franklin's Gulls are most frequently seen in the Rockies during migration, often in the company of look-alike Bonaparte's Gulls. Also called the Prairie Dove, this bird is best known to farmers on the Great Plains; Franklin's Gulls often follow tractors to opportunistically snatch up invertebrates. The Franklin's Gull is unique among gulls, because it undergoes a complete molt in spring and fall. The scientific name pipixcan is from the Aztec word for Mexico, where this bird was initially collected. Sir John Franklin, a polar explorer, is best known, perhaps, for leading the ill-fated expedition of 1845.
I.D.: Sexes similar: gray mantle; white eye ring; black wing tips with white spots; white underparts. Breeding: black head; white eye ring; orange bill; breast often has a pinkish tinge; red-orange legs. Non-breeding: white head; dark patch on the back of the head.
Size: L 13-15 in. (33-38 cm);
W 37 in. (94 cm).
Range: local breeder in Montana and Idaho; rare migrant and summer visitor elsewhere in the Rockies.
Habitat: agricultural fields, marshlands, inland lakes, flooded rivermouths, fields, meadows and landfills in the montane.
Nesting: colonial; usually in dense emergent vegetation; floating platform is built above water and lined with fine grass and plant down; pair incubates 3 eggs for 25 days.
Feeding: very opportunistic; gleans agricultural fields and meadows for grasshoppers and cutworms; catches dragonflies, mayflies and other flying invertebrates in mid-air.
Voice: mewing, shrill weeeh-ah weeeh-ah while feeding and in migration.
Similar Species: Bonaparte's Gull: adult has a black bill and shows more white in its wings.