Saturday June 20, 2015

Solving the Mystery of Ross's Gulls

Ross's gull with tracking device

Ross's gull with tracking device (Mark Maftei, HAGRG)

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The Ross's gull is a rare and beautiful Arctic seabird about which practically nothing is known. The birds are infrequently seen and only a few of their summer nesting sites have ever been discovered. Furthermore, their preferred wintering grounds have been a complete mystery.

Recently, however, Mark Maftei of the High Arctic Gull Research Group based in Bamfield, Vancouver Island, and his colleagues, were able to find a tiny breeding colony of the birds on a small Arctic island. They were able to capture a few birds, and tag them with electronic locators, which tracked them through the winter.

They found that the gulls overwinter off the cold, stormy, foggy and icy coast of Labrador. It's one of the most inhospitable environments imaginable, which explains why they haven't been seen there, but it seems to suit the gull very well.

Related Links

- Paper in Ibis
High Arctic Gull Research Group