An ivory gull that had been present in the Duluth area since Dec. 30, drawing crowds to see the rare bird, has died, Duluth birder Laura Erickson said Wednesday.
On the bright side, Erickson learned late this morning that a second ivory gull that a second ivory gull, native to the high Arctic, has been sighted in Duluth’s Canal Park along Lake Superior.
“I’ve got the dead one in my car, and I’m looking at the live one,” Erickson said in a cell phone call from Canal Park.
Erickson posted on her birding blog Wednesday morning that the first ivory gull, native to the high Arctic and not often seen in the Lower 48 states, had apparently been killed by another bird or animal. The bird was found by Bryan Murdock of Duluth, she said, who was on Connor’s Point in Superior, Wis., on Tuesday evening to photograph the sunset. He took photos of the gull, which Erickson has posted on her “Laura’s Birding Blog.”
“He said footprints went up to the carcass — they looked like fox or coyote,” Erickson wrote on her blog. “The bird could well have been knocked out of the air by (a) wintering gyrfalcon or peregrine (falcon).”
Erickson confirmed the bird’s identity by the photographs of its carcass that Murdock had sent her.
Duluth’s Scott Wolff had first observed the bird Dec. 30 while he was on a walk on Park Point, he said, but he couldn’t identify it positively. He could see that it was nearly all white, unlike all other species of gulls typically seen in the Twin Ports. He alerted a couple of birding friends, who two days later saw and confirmed the bird as an ivory gull.
This ivory gull is not the first ivory gull seen in Duluth, said Duluth birder Jan Green. The last one was in early January of 2008, she said, and was seen for just one day by a number of people, including Green. The total number of ivory gull sightings in Minnesota is about 12, Green said, dating back to 1948.
The bird had remained in the Twin Ports area, where it was often observed in Canal Park near the Duluth Ship Canal. Photographers had been providing fish to feed the bird, Erickson said.
The sighting — and the continued presence of the gull — had set off a frenzy of birders flocking to Duluth to see the bird and add it to their “life lists.” People had been coming from across Minnesota and Wisconsin by the hundreds to catch a glimpse of it, Erickson said.