South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Franklin's Gull

Larus pipixcan

Length: 15 inches Wingspan: 36 inches Seasonality: Summer / Migrant
ID Keys: Black head (summer), gray upperparts, white underparts, wingtips with black bar

Franklin's Gull - Larus pipixcan A long-distance migrant, summering on the northern Great Plains and central Canada, and wintering primarily in the Southern Hemisphere along the western South America coast.  They are often seen following plows in farm fields as they kick up insects.  Compare to the very similar Bonaparte's Gull which migrates through the state, and also the Laughing Gull (rarely seen in South Dakota). 

Habitat: Nests around marshes, sloughs, and wetland vegetation around lake margins.  Prefers large continuous areas of such habitat.  Also seen feeding around farm fields, pastures and prairies, and flooded fields. 

Diet: Mostly insects in summer, also earthworms, crustaceans, mollusks, small fish, and some seeds. 

Behavior: Feeds in a variety of ways, from catching insects in flight, walking on the ground and picking up food items, swimming, or wading in shallow water.

Nesting: May and June

Song: A harsh cuk-cuk-cuk, with occasional interjected screaming keeah-ah keeah-ah.

Migration: Summers in northern Great Plains and central Canada.  Winters along the Pacific Ocean in Central and South America.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Franklin's Gull sightings

Similar Species: Bonaparte's Gull, Laughing Gull.  See Identification Tips.

Conservation Status: Uncertain status, expanding range in some areas but sharply reduced numbers in others.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Franklin's Gull

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Franklin's Gull"

3) Franklin's Gull

Photo Information: July 18th, 2004 -- Below Oahe Dam -- Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Franklin's Gull photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Franklin's Gull - Larus pipixcan - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common migrant throughout the state.  Common summer resident in parts of the northeastern part of the states.  Uncommon summer visitor in other parts of the state.