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Ivory Gull

Paul Nicklen / National Geographic

Set your sights on a polar bear and look up. You might see ivory gulls floating above, following the polar bear in hopes of making its leftovers their next meal. A favorite of bird watchers due to its beauty, this rare polar seabird is one of the world’s few all-white birds. Although they are technically gulls, ivory gulls are shaped more like doves and pigeons than the seagulls commonly seen near beaches. The birds breed along the coasts and cliffs of the Arctic, and will lay one to three eggs which are gently nestled in a bed of moss, lichen, and seaweed.

Climate Change Impacts

The only gulls that prefer to live on sea ice rather than on land, ivory gulls need large, intact stretches of glaciers and ice to serve as barriers protecting their breeding colonies. As global warming steadily melts Arctic sea ice, ivory gull colonies will be more and more exposed to predators. Sadly, the bird’s fate is entwined with that of the polar bear and other Arctic species struggling to adapt to a warming world.