Distribution and Diet of Ivory Gulls (<i>Pagophila eburnea</i>) in the North Water


  • Nina J. Karnovsky
  • Keith A. Hobson
  • Zachary W. Brown
  • George L. Hunt, Jr.




ivory gull, Pagophila eburnea, arctic cod, Boreogadus saida, North Water polynya, star-nosed mole, Condylura cristata, stable isotope analysis, carbon-13, nitrogen-15


Ivory gulls (Pagophila eburnea, Phipps, 1774), one of the world’s least-known species, have declined throughout their range in recent years. This study describes the patterns of ivory gull use of the North Water polynya, a large polynya that occurs every year near ivory gull breeding sites on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada. We conducted at-sea surveys from Canadian icebreakers during the summers of 1997–99. In 1998, stomach contents of five ivory gulls were analyzed. We measured stable isotope ratios (d13C, d15N) of liver, muscle, feather and bone to determine how ivory gull diets vary during the year. We observed a total of 275 individuals, most of which were seen on the western side of the polynya. Flying was the predominant behavior (76% of individuals); other behaviors included sitting on ice, sitting on water, and feeding. Four juveniles were seen in August and September. Birds collected had arctic cod (Boreogadus saida) in their stomachs. Other food items included an otolith from an unidentified species of Liparid fish and two bones from a mole, presumed to be a star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata). Stable isotope results indicated that ivory gull trophic levels (TLs) were high (around TL 4 based on d15N) but varied over the season. From the three individuals whose feathers were analyzed, we conclude that differences among individuals in their winter diets or foraging locations are possible.