Immature Franklin’s Gulls

I like gulls, I know that gulls are not always a popular subject for many bird photographers and that they will often pass them by but to me they are as delightful, beautiful and fascinating as any other bird. I’m an unbiased bird photographer, if it has feathers and flies… I will photograph it. Sure certain species of gulls can be very common in some areas but they aren’t in other parts of the world. Why pass them up?

Juvenile Franklin's GullsJuvenile Franklin’s Gulls – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

I photographed these two juvenile Franklin’s Gulls (Larus pipixcan) while in the Centennial Valley of southwestern Montana last week. There were large flocks of Franklin’s Gulls in the area and I felt lucky that these two young birds were close enough to photograph. There was a third immature Franklin’s that was in a beautiful setting with small yellow flowers surrounding it but unfortunately a large California Gull that was behind it just didn’t listen to me when I politely asked it to remove its rump from behind my intended subject because it was distracting. Oh well, these two posed nicely for me.

Franklin’s Gulls are unique in that it is believed that they molt twice a year because they may need fresh flight feathers for their 5000 mile migration from their wintering and breeding grounds and back again. I enjoy the bright white, broad eye arcs of this species, it always gives them a wide-eyed look!


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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. i love their eyes. And the beautiful feathers.
    And i agree with you, gulls are beautiful and interesting, too–obviously from these photographs…even the common “sky rats” as one friend calls them. Which reminds me: i saw a rat in our garden wall once–as he scurried away from the half-eaten tomato meant for me (!!) he stopped and turned to watch me. you know what? He wasn’t creepy looking or the least bit off-putting. Quite the opposite. He was handsome. i found myself being very charmed by him–even though i did put up netting to keep him away from the tomatoes. Our prejudices are so often completely unjustified.

    • I agree Zephyr, they do have beautiful eyes. I’ve heard them called “sky rats” too, has changed my mind about how beautiful I think they are. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Lovely! I hereby move that immature Franklin’s Gulls be referred to as “Frankies” if they aren’t already.

  3. It’s ok to be biased as we all have biases. Love these little guys. Carol

  4. I agree with you on the gulls Mia. I like to photograph them, especially all the variations in plumage. This also makes for challenging and fun birding as well. I used to love going down to the dam near my house in winter and trying to pick rarities out of the hundreds of gulls on the ice. Almost always managed to turn up an Iceland and/or Glaucous.

    • Elijah, gulls can be so challenging to ID but it is fun. We have rarities come here in the winter, it is great fun to follow the sightings on the bird lists! I hope you will take some images of your gulls from the dam, flock photos are great! Thank you for your comment.

  5. Well, these are new to me ( are you sure you are not just photoshopping old gull shots into new species Mia? ;) Wonderful eye pattern.. and really clearly photographed. Excellent Coloring, almost porcelain in tone. I always learn something from your descriptions.

    • You made me giggle again Stu, I’m not a Photoshop wizard! Ok well, just an apprentice :-) I like the porcelain tones of the birds plumage too. Thanks for the giggle & comment.

  6. I like gulls too. Just yesterday at the island I was taking pictures of them! I have no idea what they are though.

    • Judy, I’ve seen California, Ring-billed and California Gulls on the island & causeway. In the winter some odd ones show up there and at Farmington.

  7. Mia, You are sooo good at identifying birds. I would have never gotten this one. We have a bird new to our area that we finally identified as a Western Kingbird now if I could be as good as you when it comes to capturing the colors and how the bird fits into it’s surroundings.

    Hope you had a great trip.

    • Shiela, I had a fantasic trip, thank you! I do mess up with some bird IDs, like sparrows, the larger gulls in juvenile plumage and some ducks! Congrats on the Western Kingbird, they are such fun to observe & photograph.

  8. I like all the different tonalities in their plumage.

  9. I love gulls and trying to ID them (although i stink at it), great images – never seen these types.

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