WatchList Species Account for Ross’s Gull (Rhodostethia rosea)

Qualifies for the list as a Declining Yellow List Species


Photo: George Jett
Photo: George Jett

Breeding in the high arctic of North America and northeastern Siberia, this small gull with its pigeon-like flight moves south relatively short distances, where most of the population winters at the edge of the pack ice, though some birds reach northeastern Europe and North America as far south as the Salton Sea in California, though there are only a couple of dozen records of the bird in the lower 48 states. It is a ground nester in swampy arctic estuaries. An isolated population nests at Churchill, Manitoba and lies within a special conservation area established by the provincial government. The Russia - Alaska population is estimated to be 50,000 birds, while the two breeding populations in Canada are no more than a few pairs.


Often nesting near Arctic Tern colonies, Ross’ Gulls use a wide variety of arctic habitats. During nesting, they are found on gravel reefs or tundra lowlands covered with low shrubs and other short vegetation. In winter, they are found near permanently open water on pack ice or the edge of the ice in the Bering Sea. They feed on small fish and invertebrates and are thought to be long-lived.


Since the gull needs open water for feeding, one limiting factor is heavy ice cover, while predation is another. The eggs and chicks are preyed on by polar bears, arctic foxes, and other species of gulls. The high chick mortality and harsh environment keep the gull’s population low.