As we crossed the Great Plains yesterday afternoon, we encountered large flocks of Franklin's gulls over the farmlands of Central Kansas; having wintered along the west coast of South America, their journey will be much longer than ours.
Headed for breeding grounds on the Northern Plains of the U.S. and Canada (smaller numbers breed in the Intermountain West), Franklin's gulls nest in colonies, favoring vegetated areas of wetlands, ponds and lake margins. Their floating nest of aquatic plant material is often anchored to emergent vegetation and must be continuously reinforced; 2-4 chicks are usually raised. Franklin's gulls feed on small fish, seeds and a wide variety of invertebrates; they often wade through shallows or march across plowed fields in search of prey but also hawk for insects above prairies, lakes or croplands (or even above cities during migration).
Small but determined, these energetic gulls were tested by strong north winds yesterday; in response, they flew close to the ground and moved along the leeward side of low hills and ridges. When you migrate from South America to Canada, it's important to conserve energy!