Saturday Snapshot May 17: Franklin’s Gulls

I discovered a flock of Franklin’s Gulls a few weeks ago. Seeing the limited breeding area shown on the map, I consider myself privileged to be living right in this zone to welcome them.

Franklin's Gulls Map 1
Source: South Dakota Birds and Birding


I heard the calls of gulls from afar, even before i saw them. I admit I wasn’t too excited. My initial thought was, ‘just another bunch of ordinary seagulls’. When I got closer, I saw a huge flock, close to a hundred of them.

Flocks of Franklin's Gulls

Only after I’d uploaded my photos to my laptop did I realize these were not ‘ordinary gulls’ (for us I suppose are the more common Ring-billed Gulls). At first, I could not tell what they were. I had to look up the detailed descriptions to identify them.

They were Franklin’s Gulls, breeding adults. Their black head and white crescent eyes make them look like they’re hooded. They look almost cartoonish, comical, everyone full of character.


Franklin's Gulls
Below their dark hood is a white neck, their wings dark gray. The trailing edge of the wing is white, wing tip black with white spots. Slender and handsome:





Franklin's GullSee the beak of the gull on the upper left. In the light, it’s translucent orangey-red:

Orange Translucent Beak

Beautiful wings looking from the top:

Beautiful Wings

completely snow-white from underneath:

Snow white underneath


See Jonathan Livingston Seagull soar above the crowd, gliding in solitude:

Jonathan Livingston Seagull


After learning about the Franklin’s Gulls, I found I didn’t know much about the ‘ordinary gulls’ either… maybe nothing is ordinary in Nature.


 Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Melinda of West Metro Mommy Reads. CLICK HERE to see what others have posted.




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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

37 thoughts on “Saturday Snapshot May 17: Franklin’s Gulls”

  1. Such gorgeous photos and what a delightful surprise for you to discover that you’d captured those rare birds with your camera. I am always amazed at your ability to capture birds in flight and from so many different angles, showing them in all their beauty. Thank you once again for sharing.
    You’ll find my Saturday Snapshots HERE.


    1. Sandra,

      Thanks for your kinds words. Actually, got these photos after extensive cropping, because I don’t have a ‘paparazzo lens’.


  2. Although the range map shows them migrating through Illinois, I’ve never seen a Franklin’s Gull -that I know of. Thinking I may have misidentified them as ‘ordinary’ ring-billed gulls, I checked ebird, but no, sightings are not very frequent here.

    Good thing you bothered to shoot the ‘common flock’. I love when that happens and I find a different bird when I enlarge my photos. That happened to me with a Rusty Blackbird last year – and they are becoming quite rare so I was thrilled. You’re right – the more I learn the more I realize that nothing is ‘ordinary’.


    1. Leslie,

      That was the beginning of Spring, and I was so hungry for a bird pic, any bird. So, glad I caught sight of these, at that time, ‘unknown gulls’ to start the season with. The breeding season is so short. I went back there a couple of weeks ago but they were gone. Maybe they found a better place to breed here in the City. So glad I caught them where they were.


  3. My photos aren’t as great as yours but I do believe I took a couple photos of these same type of gulls in North Carolina this week. Wonderful shots!


    1. Thanks for stopping by Melinda. And for hosting Sat Snapshot. Again, I regret I can’t leave any message because there’s no allowance for WordPress bloggers to leave a comment. So I’ll have to thank you here. 😉


  4. When I first looked at these, I was certain they were laughing gulls. In fact, I’ve learned in the past ten minutes that Franklin’s gulls and laughing gulls are nearly indistinguishable, but the laughing gull is more common along the Gulf Coast and in the Southeastern US. Their pages face one another in my Sibley, so it’s easy to see what differences there are. And there’s a note that the two species often are confused.

    Franklin’s gulls overlap the territory of our laughing gulls, but only barely. I’m wondering — did you hear them calling? My book says their calls are similar. When it’s breeding season and the laughing gull boys are showing off, it’s such a racket, and just hilarious. They do sound like they’re laughing, and pretty soon people are laughing, too. You just can’t help yourself.

    Wonderful photos!


    1. Linda,

      According to the distribution map of the Laughing Gulls, they are not to be found in the Canadian Prairies, where the Franklin Gulls breed. So, I’m sure these are the Franklin’s Gulls. The Laughing Gulls have slightly longer beaks that bend at the tip. However, looking at these Franklin’s Gulls, I can see why someone would call them ‘Laughing Gulls’. For they do look like they are laughing, don’t they? That’s why I thought these guys look so animated and comical.


      1. Oh, I’m sure yours are Franklins. I just was surprised to see them so similar to the laughing, and was curious whether we might have Franklin’s here, too. The answer to that seems to be yes, sometimes — maybe!


  5. What lovely photos. You are right, it is a shame that we think of some wildlife as a bit ordinary, just through familiarity. It is all special.


    1. Ginny,

      I know so little about the birds that I photograph, like where they come from, male/female/juvenile, where they breed, etc. Often it’s after the fact, after I’ve come home and uploaded them before I find out what kind of birds I’ve seen. 😉


    1. Allison,

      O lovely! Indeed, a Franklin’s Gull in Newfoundland. The photos are so close too, and crisp. You see, I had to take all my photos from afar, couldn’t get close to them due to the elevation, had to crop a whole bunch before I got a closer look of them. Thanks for the link!


  6. What handsome birds! They remind me of naval officers for some reason, beautiful contrast in their coloring. Wonderful shots, all, Arti. But I particularly like the one showing the snowy under-feathers.


    1. nikkipolani,

      Yes, that’s a beautiful angle looking at the gull, from underneath. I love the black and white contrast of the hood and the belly. They are handsome indeed.


  7. You’re quite right Arti- nothing in nature is ordinary. Both you and Leslie have proved that this weekend with your gulls and pigeons- everything is interesting if you’re able to look at it with a receptive view. I’ve done a similar thing with parrots before, I thought I was taking a picture of one reasonably common type of parrot, got home and realised it was a less common type! It’s such a misery to take up birdwatching just as your eyesight is failing….


    1. Louise,

      Yes, I remember your parrots. They are so colourful. You’ll never know, birding may help improve your eyesight. I know it has helped me sharpen my observation, and hearing too. 😉


  8. As usual, Arti, great shots of a beautiful species of gull. And I agree with you: they do “look almost cartoonish, comical, everyone full of character.” I think a “boid” named Franklin the Gull, voiced by Mel Blanc of course, would have fit in perfectly with Warner Brothers’ Merrie Melodies.


  9. What stunning birds! How I would love to visit your woods and pond with you — you know so much about them (and how to find out!) I love their pretty little heads but those beaks fascinate me. Some of your photos dazzle — the one just touching down on the water is perfection — and I’m glad the red beak showed up. Very nice. Looks like spring has sprung!


    1. Jeanie,

      I wish I’d a more powerful lens to do them justice. My photos had been cropped big time, I could hardly get any closer to them with just a 200mm lens. Most expert birders have at least a huge 400 mm like the paparazzi’s. Anyway, I’ve learned to edit on my laptop. You can still see these pics aren’t so sharp. But, with what I have, I’m glad to be able to share what I’d seen. And yes, definitely, would love to share the experience with you… one day. Not only my neck of the woods, but Banff and beyond. 😉


  10. Oh, aren’t they pretty! I think I may have seen some of these before passing through my area before, though don’t quote me on that! Their black heads really make them striking birds.


    1. Stefanie,

      I’m glad I stopped by the right place, at the right time. Because a few days later when I went back there they were gone. Take a look at the map see if your state is right in the coloured area.


  11. I’m always so impressed with your photos! They remain so clear and sharp despite cropping … this particular gull has such distinct markings and coloring! As an aside, my big sightings this week were an American eagle being mobbed by red-winged blackbirds along side a river in Vermont and a scarlet tanager yesterday just down the road on my little mountain in New Hampshire.


    1. Thanks for stopping by Susan. I just realized I’ve not replied your comment, sorry for being so late. But just good timing though because I just ‘discovered’ a Western Tanager last week, since you mentioned you saw a Scarlet one. It’s beautiful . But I’m sure yours must be very colourful too, in scarlet.


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