By Sam Cook on Jan 5, 2016 at 6:47 p.m.
Duluth's Scott Wolff wasn't sure exactly what kind of gull he was looking at during his walk on Park Point on Dec. 30. But he could see that it was nearly all white, unlike all other species of gulls typically seen in the Twin Ports.
So, he alerted a couple of birding friends, who two days later saw and confirmed the bird as an ivory gull, the first ever seen in Duluth and an extremely rare visitor anywhere in the Lower 48 states. The species is native to the high Arctic, spending its winters on pack ice of the Arctic Ocean.
The bird is still here, hanging out near Canal Park, Duluth birder Laura Erickson said Tuesday. She first saw the gull on New Year's Day.
"I've been birding for 41 years, and I'd never seen one," Erickson said.
That's saying something. Erickson had seen about 1,700 species in her life, including 675 species in the Lower 48, Alaska and Canada, before she saw the ivory gull.
The sighting — and the continued presence of the gull — has set off a frenzy of birders flocking to Duluth to see the bird and add it to their "life lists." Ivory gulls typically follow polar bears and seals on the pack ice, gleaning scraps from their kills, Erickson said. People are coming from across Minnesota and Wisconsin by the hundreds to catch a glimpse of it, Erickson said.
Jan and Larry Kraemer of Duluth, avid birders and former guides for the Duluth Audubon Society, heard about a possible rare gull and went looking on New Year's Day near the mouth of Miller Creek, close to WLSSD, Larry Kraemer said. They saw and identified the bird as an ivory gull.
"It's unmistakable," Kraemer said. "It's not a 'maybe.' "
An adult ivory gull is 17 inches long with a wingspan of about 33 inches, according to "The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America."
The Kraemers had never seen one before.
Later the same day, they saw it at Canal Park with fellow Duluth birder Peder Svingen, who tossed out some salmon and tuna to attract the gull.
The bird can usually be seen at Canal Park early in the morning and late in the day, Erickson said.