Franklin’s Gulls ~ Feeding Frenzy

Last year while I was camping and photographing at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge I saw a feeding frenzy that involved Franklin’s and California Gulls in the flooded grasses and Sagebrush flats near the Lower Lake.

Foraging Franklin's GullsForaging Franklin’s Gulls – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/2500, ISO 400, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

There were hundreds of breeding plumage Franklin’s Gulls (Larus pipixcan) in the field hovering, wading in the standing water and foraging. I still don’t know what it was they were feasting on.

Hovering Franklin's Gull Hovering Franklin’s Gull – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/1500, ISO 400, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

None of my images from that day show prey in the bill so my thoughts are that there could have been an insect hatch or perhaps there were tadpoles in the flooded flats. I should have gotten out of the pickup and scanned the water to see what the prey was.

The photo above shows the rosy pink wash that Franklin’s Gull have on their chest and belly when they are in breeding plumage.  This is actually in the feather structure there, not “on” them.

Franklin's Gull in flightFranklin’s Gull in flight – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/200, ISO 250, Nikkor 200-400mm VR at 200mm, natural light

I hope to see and photograph another feeding frenzy with the Franklin’s Gulls, if I do I will do my best to find out what prey item causes it.


For more information on why I love Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge click here.


  1. Bob Zeller March 5, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    Beautiful, exciting shots, Mia. I love that background. 🙂

    • Mia McPherson March 6, 2012 at 7:07 am

      Thank you; as always, for your very kind comments on my images Bob!

  2. Tammy Karr March 5, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    The Franklin’s Gulls are beautiful; I love the rosy-colored chest. I love the gorgeous background! Your photos offer a really unique view of the gulls as most gull photos I see are photographed near the beach or ocean. Very well done.

    • Mia McPherson March 6, 2012 at 7:06 am

      Thanks Tammy! I get to see a lot of gulls here even though I am far inland because of the Great Salt Lake and its surrounding freshwater marshes.

  3. Nicole MacP March 5, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    These pics are great! Beautiful is definitely the right word!!

  4. Julie G. March 5, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    These are absolutely beautiful images, Mia! So pretty against the blowing grasses. I’m glad you pointed out the rosy blush on the belly and chest. Just lovely.

    • Mia McPherson March 5, 2012 at 6:01 pm

      Thanks Julie. The Sandwich Terns I used to photograph in Florida also get that pink wash to them during breeding season. Natures sure is wonderful!

  5. Prairie Birder March 5, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    The colors are so beautiful, terrific work Mia!

    • Mia McPherson March 5, 2012 at 5:59 pm

      Thanks so much PrairieBirder!

  6. judy watson March 5, 2012 at 7:17 am

    Very nice!! Love the close up one!

    • Mia McPherson March 5, 2012 at 5:59 pm

      Thanks Judy, I love it when they get the pink wash during breeding season.

  7. Steve Gent March 5, 2012 at 7:04 am

    excellent work as always, loved the atmospherics. I used to shoot a lot in B & W ( remember that) and spent hours walking around when it looked good for brooding clouds on the landscape. I was influenced by Catier Bresson and of course Ansel Adams.

    • Mia McPherson March 5, 2012 at 5:55 pm

      Steve, I love to photograph gulls against moody skies too or just moody skies. I’ll have to try B & W more often. Thanks for commenting!

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